Film Focus: Falling Down

Falling Down (1993)

Cert: 18

Written by: Ebbe Roe Smith

Director: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey

Running Time: 113 mins

“You think I’m a thief? Oh, you see, I’m not the thief. I’m not the one charging 85 cents for a stinking soda! You’re the thief. I’m just standing up for my rights as a consumer.”

Bill Foster- Falling Down

Reviewed by Matt Keleher

The common foibles of modern living, such as rush-hour traffic, the occasional lousy meal and extortionate prices are things that most of us are able take in our stride with a little levity. Yet it’s easy to imagine that for somebody on the very brink, any of the aforementioned bugbears could tip them right over the edge…

In Falling Down, Bill ‘D-FENS’ Foster (played by Michael Douglas) is the white-collar defence worker recently made redundant from his job …and in turn, from society.  In the opening scene, Bill is trapped in a hopelessly stymying traffic jam, staring into the haze, sweat glistening upon his worn forehead. Wearing a brush cut, thick glasses with a shirt, tie and slacks it’s easy to peg him as the soft-spoken milquetoast who would crumple at the hint of a conflict.

Yet with the loss of his job, compounded with his estrangement from his wife and daughter, the gridlock turns out to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, overriding a switch and bringing Bill’s latent aggression and frustration to the forefront.

It isn’t long before Bill begins to lose his composure and lashes out

He symbolically abandons societal convention once he abandons his car on the freeway – to the bemusement of his fellow motorists; the confusion and disarray this act of defiance creates is palpable – people are aghast, even offended that somebody would dare deviate from expected behaviour.

The intensity is turned up a notch as he wanders into a grocery store for some change to make a phone call; the clerk refuses- insisting that he buys something. While Bill relents, he realises that the purchase won’t leave him with enough change for the call, so asks for 50 cents from a dollar. When he is refused by the avaricious clerk, he begins to lose his cool. Sensing a threat, the clerk produces a baseball bat and asks him to leave. Imbibed by adrenalin, Bill seizes the bat, turning the tables on the situation; having wrested the power away, he asks the clerk the name the prices of items in his store before smashing up the stock he feels to be overpriced. Then, he simmers down – even paying 50 cents for a soda as he leaves.

As he makes the phone call we learn that he plans to visit his daughter on her birthday, though his estranged wife makes it explicitly clear that he’s not welcome. From thereon out, Bill descends deep and deeper into depravity.

Some of the early conflicts, such as a disagreement in a fast-food restaurant are darkly comic; Bill asks for a breakfast meal, but is refused as the manager explains the menu changed minutes ago. He fires a pistol at the ceiling sending the whole restaurant into panic. The panic-stricken staff are compelled to meet his demands; only Bill to whimsically change his mind and decide he wants to order from the lunchtime menu after all! When he asks a terrified customer how they’re enjoying their meal, they vomit into their tray.

“I think we have a critic here,” he remarks.

“I don’t think she likes the special sauce, Rick…That was a joke.”

Bill compares his burger to the picture on the menu...and finds it wanting.

Bill compares his burger to the one pictured on the menu…and finds it wanting.

As the story progresses, Bill stumbles from one conflict to the next, each more heated and violent than the last; he quickly becomes acclimatised to bloodshed, his inhibitions falling further with each unpleasant encounter. After an ugly conflict with a neighbourhood gang, the unassuming looking man with the briefcase comes to the attention of the cops.

Douglas’ delivers a memorable performance, portraying Bill’s insecurities, regret and inner-conflict just as believably as he does his torrid anger. The film is bolstered by a capable supporting cast especially Robert Duvall who plays Detective Prendergast – a virtuous cop who faces comparable circumstances to Bill; it’s the day of his retirement and hearing of the grizzly conflict downtown he ditches his leaving party, ignoring cries from his overbearing wife to come home as he and partner Elizabeth Travino (Barbara Heshey) tail Bill in an effort to put the brakes on his terrifying rampage.

This heated thriller will have you at the edge of your seat, as moral boundaries become indistinct and the film races towards its intense final act. Falling Down is a fine film, which aside from its frantic action, interspersed with emotional drama offers an intelligent insight into the workings of contemporary society, the age of instant gratification and the triggers which may cause an individual to snap and rail against them…

To watch the film’s trailer click below:

 

Have you seen this film? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments box.

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – My verdict

“Amateurs, amateurs. Listen to me, Mr. Wright. In the courtroom, proof is everything. Without it, you have nothing. You are nothing.”

Miles Edgeworth- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Reviewed by Matt Keleher

It’s a familiar trope in TV and film to portray defence lawyers as rapacious mercenaries prepared to go to nefarious lengths to get their clients off the hook – whether they believe their innocence or not…

The Phoenix Wright games refreshingly break with that convention; its sharp young protagonist is driven instead by honesty, using reason and objectivity in his pursuit of truth. Although a relative newcomer to the profession, Phoenix is smart and conscientious – firmly trusting his own judgement.

Despite mediocre sales, the Phoenix Wright titles remain some of the most entertaining in the DS Library.

Despite mediocre sales, the Phoenix Wright titles remain some of the most entertaining in the DS Library.

For those unfamiliar with the series, his inaugural adventure: ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney’ on the Nintendo DS is arguably the best starting point:

The year is 2016 and Phoenix Wright is cutting his teeth as a defence attorney at the Fey and Co. Law offices – under the wing of his mentor Mia Fey.

There are five cases to solve in ‘Ace Attoney’, wherein players must explore the crime scenes, examining the minutiae of each case and speaking to witnesses in the area before presenting the evidence they have gathered in the courtroom.

The game takes advantage of the DS’s inbuilt microphone, allowing the player to shout ‘Objection!’ as Phoenix refutes the prosecution with a piece of crucial evidence. If you’re furtively playing during classes or lectures you probably won’t wish draw attention to yourself, but luckily there’s the handy option just to tap the word ‘Objection’ with your stylus instead…

The opening case is much shorter than the others, forgoing the crime scene investigation and bringing Phoenix into the courtroom from the get-go to familiarise players with the story and gameplay (awkward navigation could really hamper a title like this, but thankfully it’s all wonderfully intuitive).

In the opening case, Phoenix must clear the name of his childhood friend, Larry Butz.

In the opening case, Phoenix must clear the name of his childhood friend, Larry Butz.

Phoenix’s abilities are put to the test for the first time when he comes to the aid of childhood friend Larry Butz who has been wrongfully accused of murdering his girlfriend. The hapless Larry (whose name the judge often mistakes for ‘Harry’) is one of many weird and wonderful characters you’ll encounter throughout the game.

A few of the more memorable characters in this instalment include Dick Gumshoe – a kindly, yet hopelessly incompetent police detective; Miles Edgeworth -the game’s erudite chief prosecutor and Phoenix’s sparring partner and the overbearing Wendy Oldbag – an elderly lady (as her name connotes) working odd security jobs.

Their larger than life personalities and nuances are captured perfectly by the sprites’ delightfully quirky animations, many of which have to be seen to believed!

During the examination sections, you explore environments by moving from one screen to the next, quizzing the colourful characters you meet along the way. Only once you have the answer to a pertinent question or find that elusive piece of evidence that sews up the case will the story progress…

You'll meet a whole host of characters throughout the game including the meddlesome Wendy Oldbag...

You’ll meet a whole host of characters throughout the game including the meddlesome Wendy Oldbag…

While Ace Attorney does little to exploit the DS’s 3D capabilities, (save for select sequences in the final case) its simple, yet charming anime-style sprite animation and colourful backgrounds fit the game perfectly and the ‘point and click’ adventure format works perfectly with the DS’s stylus.

In a sense Ace Attorney could be seen as an interactive graphic novel; in spite of its linear gameplay you’ll be hooked to the end, thanks to its tightly plotted stories and signature visual humour. I have no doubt these titles have inspired a handful of gamers to pursue a career in the legal profession – if they can practice with the integrity of Phoenix, then that’s no bad thing.

I was pleased to learn that the series survived the transition to the 3DS: a full 3D adventure entitled ‘Dual Destinies’  (which looks fantastic) arrived in Japan this Summer and is slated for a release in both Europe and America on October 24 as a digital only download via the Nintendo eShop.

Click below to watch the game’s trailer:

Have you played this game? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments box.

Keys, Phone, Wallet? There’s an app for that

by Matt Keleher

Imagine you have to be at work in half an hour, but your keys, wallet or phone simply refuse to be found. You end up frantically searching every corner of your home, almost certain that you’ll be late…

It’s a scenario that will be all too familiar for many readers, but fear not as a new breakthrough product named ‘Tile’ promises to alleviate the stress of searching for your lost and misplaced valuables.

Tile and its free iOS app are designed to take the stress out of locating lost or misplaced items

Tile, the brainchild of Nick Evans and Mike Farley is a small device that can be clipped onto any object (it also works with pets) which can be tracked with an app that utilises cloud and Bluetooth technology, should it go missing.

Each Tile connects with the product’s iOS app, which allows you to see its location when it is in Bluetooth range (50-150ft). You can also use the app to sound the Tile’s inbuilt alarm to make the item easier to find.

…but what if your item wasn’t where you thought it was or worse yet is stolen?

“The technology is able to leverage the Bluetooth connectivity of everyone in the Tile community to help you find lost items,” Evans and Farley told itsaapp.com:

“Say you leave your briefcase (which has a Tile inside) sitting on a table at a café while you get up to order coffee, and while you’re gone someone steals your briefcase. Once you realize it’s gone, you can go into the free iOS Tile app and mark that item as missing. When you do that, your app discretely and securely puts all other Tile apps on the search for that item in the background. If another Tile app user comes within range of your missing briefcase, you are sent the updated location on a map so that you can retrieve your missing item.”

Tile’s cofounders are currently working hard to ensure their product will be ready for a winter release.

This has all the makings of a true entrepreneurial success story; with the Tile, Evans and Farley may well have struck upon an innovation that makes life a little easier for us all.

Now… where did I leave those keys?

Promo video for Tile:

In Praise of: Shenmue

“Time for our daily warm-up race! You all do your best now…Like always, three laps to the finish; everybody ready…On your mark – almost time to go…”

Mark Kimberly – Shenmue

Shenmue's varied gameplay and the inclusion of mini-games such as the forklift races helped keep things fresh

Shenmue’s varied gameplay and the inclusion of mini-games such as the forklift races helped keep things fresh

by Matt Keleher

It was a halcyon year for the home console market with a host of quality titles emerging across all platforms. Yet in November 2000 when Shenmue arrived in British stores (having launched in Japan a year earlier) the bar was raised significantly for graphical realism, atmosphere, depth and scope of gameplay.

While the then pin-sharp visuals of many early Dreamcast titles trounced contenders on the PS1 and N64, Shenmue was arguably the first that truly tapped into the system’s potential. Sega Enterprises’ prolific designer and producer Yu Suzuki spearheaded the project; Suzuki’s backlog of work for some of Sega’s most popular and influential titles, (including Virtua Figher, Daytona USA and Space Harrier) meant the game had some lofty expectations to live up to…

Set in Yokosuka, Japan Shenmue follows 18 year old Ryo Hazuki on his quest to avenge the murder of his father, Iwao who was struck down at the family home before his eyes by the sinister Lan-Di. The player takes control of Ryo days later when, still reeling from the tragedy he begins his search for answers and the whereabouts of his father’s killer; his only clue being the distinctive black car which tore up neighbourhood before the fateful encounter.

The player must first turn detective, asking Ryo’s friends and neighbours the cryptic questions that will allow him to begin to piece the mystery together. Once Ryo steps out the door, the player must turn detective quizzing local residents.

While initially the story progresses at a relaxed pace, Ryo soon finds himself getting into a scrap or two and later in the game we’re introduced to stealth, driving and racing oriented sections, which throw some welcome variety into the mix.

Shenmue rewards players who take the time to explore its detailed environments as opposed to rushing to complete it. There’s plenty to discover, including a host of mini-games, rare items, hidden cut-scenes and much more. Picture: Shenmue Dojo

Shenmue rewards players who take the time to explore its detailed environments as opposed to rushing to complete it. There’s plenty to discover, including a host of mini-games, rare items, hidden cut-scenes and much more. Picture: Shenmue Dojo

There are three Yokosuka districts to explore (Sakuragaoka, Yamonose and Dobuita) in addition to the larger harbour area that becomes available later in the game. One of the joys of Shenmue is discovering new environments for the first time; every corner, nook and cranny is teeming with detail.

Open a cupboard in the Hazuki kitchen and see a mosquito fly away; stroll through Dobuita at sunset to see shop owners pulling down shutters and frequent a restaurant to see diners chowing down with bowls of piping hot ramen. There are more than 400 characters in the game; each has their own unique voice, appearance and idiosyncratic quirks.

Goro Mihashi is a pompadoured tearaway who speaks a little too loudly and torments harbour workers with his petty gang. He also has the best theme music in the game; a pulsating blues shuffle that won't leave your head for weeks!

Goro Mihashi is a pompadoured tearaway who speaks a little too loudly and torments harbour workers with his petty gang. He also has the best theme music in the game; a pulsating blues shuffle that won’t leave your head for weeks!

Shenmue was still is a superlative achievement in digital art and design. However, despite the game receiving very positive reviews upon its release it failed to reach projected sales making a considerable loss on its $70m budget. Its brilliant sequel which saw Ryo continue to pursue revenge in Hong Kong proved to be one of the last hurrahs for the ill-fated Dreamcast. Unfortunately, when the third instalment was unduly cancelled (presumably due to the underwhelming sales of its predecessors) fans were left with a cliff-hanger ending.

If you’ve yet to experience Shenmue for yourself and like what you see, it’s easy to track down a used Dreamcast and a copy of the game. Take a chance on this one – I doubt you’ll regret it!

Watch the trailer here:

Have you played Shenmue? Share your thoughts in the comment box…

Book Club: Mickey Spillane

“Everything started to come out right then, even the screwy test they put me through. A small-time setup like this was hardly worth the direct attention of a Moscow man unless something was wrong, so I had to prove myself.

Smart? Sure, just like road apples that happen behind horses.”

Mickey Spillane- One Lonely Night

by Matt Keleher

For much of his lifetime, Mickey Spillane was the first name in ‘hard-boiled’ crime fiction. In today’s Book Club, I give my readers the skinny on one of his best-loved novels, ‘One Lonely Night’ and the man himself.

Author Profile

Frank Morrison Spillane, (aka  Mickey) cut his teeth as a comic book writer in the early 40s, contributing stories for cherished characters such Captain America, Superman and Batman to name but a few. Spillane would later discover his true niche writing ‘hard-boiled’ fiction; the pulpy, noir-soaked underworlds depicted in his novels were filled with crooked cops, femme fatales , lawless mobsters and usually a renegade PI with no qualms about bending a few rules if it earned him his pay check.

Pictured: A young Mickey Spillane at work

Pictured: A young Mickey Spillane at work

While it could be said Spillane’s novels are sparse on introspection, life lessons and character development, they more than compensate for these shortcomings with bloody, gratuitous violence. His stylistic choices predictably earned him a mauling from many a literary critic; in response to his detractors, Spillane remarked:

Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar…If the public likes you, you’re good.”

It seems he had the last laugh; his novels have sold more than 225 million copies world-wide and his work remains a perennial influence in the sphere of contemporary crime fiction. Prominent figures who praised Spillane’s writing include Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand and (surprisingly) Jackie Collins who professed her admiration in a recent interview with The Guardian.

One Lonely Night

spillanenightIn One Lonely Night, Spillane’s luckless gumshoe Mike Hammer begins his third adventure as he means to go on. From the get-go, he’s in deep shit; having gunned down a perp in self-defence, Hammer is hauled before a judge. While avoiding a sentence, pleading self-defence, the judge makes no effort to hide his contempt for the reckless PI’s destructive ways, delivering a stern lecture before turfing Hammer back onto the mean streets.

Alone with his thoughts, Hammer decides to take a stroll as he cools off. While crossing a bridge in a bad neighbourhood, he encounters a hysterical young woman in the midst of pursuit by an armed thug. What said thug didn’t count on was Hammer filling his guts with lead before he reached his target.  Hammer turns around to find the girl dangling from the bridge and rushes to save her, but in spite of his efforts she plummets to her death. His only memento from the affair was a pack of smokes containing an ominous green card. This sole, cryptic clue leads him to the heart of a sinister Communist plot (the book was published at the height of America’s ‘red scare’) which our intrepid anti-hero resolves to thwart with very little outsider help.

This is noir at its purest; there’s little respite from the foreboding realm of claustrophobic alleys, dim warehouses and sawdust littered apartments – and all the better for it:

“The rain was misty enough to be almost fog-like, a cold grey curtain that separated me from the pale ovals of white that were face locked behind the steamed-up windows of the cars that hissed by…I walked and I smoked and I flipped the spent butts ahead of me and watched them arch to the pavement and fizzle out with one last wink.”

Apparently unaffected by the dreaded ‘writer’s block’ Spillane was surely the envy of his contemporaries; he never re-wrote anything. This allowed him to turn over a novel in a matter of weeks. While other writers agonise over whether their fickle critics will howl over a clunky sentence, Spillane sat through a shift at the typewriter without giving a rat’s ass whether the press liked what he wrote.

He knew what his readers wanted however and if you find yourself clamouring for a fix of tough noir, One Lonely Night could be just the ticket.

TV Choice: South Park- ‘Let Go, Let Gov’

Reviewed by Matt Keleher

At its best, South Park still manages to serve up piquant satire juxtaposed with some of the crudest, gut-bustingly funny gags you’re likely to find on contemporary television.  With creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone riding high on the success of their smash-hit musical ‘Book of Mormon’ (which has won widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike) expectations were high for the Season 17 premiere, when it aired last night.

The new episode, entitled ‘Let Go Let Gov’ is loosely based around the recent NSA (National Security Agency) controversy which saw whistle-blower Edward Snowden leak confidential details of US and British government mass surveillance to The Guardian.

The episode also introduced a re-imagined opening sequence which showcases how far the show’s animation has come since its inaugural card-cutout days, but stays true to its signature style.

Spoilers to follow…

“I am so sick of that stupid bitch. Blabbing prissy little skank…I can’t even get a minute of peace before that bitch walks in holding the cellphone out like this and talking on speakerphone!”

The show opens with Kyle’s harangue; who could be grating on his nerves so much? You guessed it: it’s Cartman! He rolls up seconds later chatting aloud to friends (and anyone in earshot) on speakerphone about the government (and Kyle’s) constant invasion of his privacy.  This continues for much of the first act.

The episode’s choice quote which comes in the next scene succinctly captures the mind-set of the over-zealous, under-informed recreational conspiracy theorist:

Cartman: I’m telling you guys, the government can do whatever they want and we don’t have any privacy anymore. Just between you and me I think everyone’s too stupid to see what this is all leading to. Did you guys read 1984?

Friend on Speakerphone: I don’t think so.

Cartman: Yeah, I didn’t read it either, but I saw the puppet show version at Casa Bonita.

In spite of a promising start the episode begins to lose its momentum with a somewhat ham-fisted gag about the controversial Twitter rants of actor Alec Baldwin. “I don’t think that way, I just type that way” Baldwin claims.

“That’s when I realised it wasn’t me that was homophobic; it was my thumbs.”

After severing both thumbs with a meat cleaver Baldwin communicates instead via a probe installed in his brain, which transmits his every thought to his social media followers on a site named ‘Shitter’. There’s a call back to the gag several times throughout the episode, which I felt was one of its weakest.

Things pick up slightly when the subplot is introduced; when Cartman announces to the playground that the government is watching over them, Butters is the only one that takes the message to heart – except Butters finds comfort in that thought.  That night before going to sleep, Butters prays for his friends…and a puppy to President Obama. He visits the DMV in the hope of absolving his sins, later undergoing a transformation into a charismatic preacher who convinces half the town (including a pair of Jehova’s Witnesses) to do the same!

Pictured: Butters prays to President Obama

In the second act Cartman infiltrates the NSA under the ruse of applying for a job under this alias ‘Bill Clinton’ wearing a false moustache and a conspicuous ‘Shitter’ probe attached.. The story becomes a little laboured from hereon in, although the NSA agents do make a sharp observation on the sheer complexity of the communication trails we leave with the 17 year old girl who just wanted to see a Percy Jackson movie.

For the payoff, Cartman discovers the NSA’s secret method for tracking every citizen. The agency has a heavily probed and badly concussed Santa Claus hooked up to a machine, enabling them to track precisely who’s asleep and who’s awake. Cartman symbolically blows a whistle and blabs to his Shitter followers, but no-one cares.

In short, this is a reasonable episode, but a little disappointing for a season premiere– especially given the show’s year long hiatus. That said, I’ll certainly be tuning in again to see which of this year’s hot topics (there have been too many to mention) will be the next to get the South Park treatment.

Seen the new episode? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Book Corner: Living Proof by Kira Peikoff

Reviewed by Matt Keleher

livingproof“Even though each month it happened the same way – the creak, the alarm, the snapshot – Arianna still felt jolted. She felt even worse for the patients who happened to be in the waiting room when a man with a gun swaggered in. But DEP inspectors, as Arianna would explain, had magnetic passes that let them swipe into any fertility clinic whenever they wanted, which set the alarm of every time.”

Living Proof- Peikoff’s debut thriller transports the reader to a dystopian near future wherein the religious right’s ‘pro-life’ argument has been taken to its logical conclusion; embryos have the same rights as citizens – the destruction of an embryo carries a charge of first degree murder. Fertility clinics must store embryos indefinitely and are subject to increasingly stifling regulation and inspection by the draconian, religiously-motivated DEP (Department of Embryo Preservation).

Promising young doctor Arianna Drake is a skilled practitioner at a private clinic in Manhattan, but fearful of the DEP in spite of her exemplary record. The suspicions of DEP chief Gideon Dopp are aroused after he notices a sharp growth in the popularity of Drake’s clinic.

After he discovers Arianna’s past link to a controversial scientist and opponent of the embryo legislation, Dopp sends his protégé Trent Rowe undercover to get the dirt on Arianna under the ruse of romance.

As Trent immerses himself deeper in her world he discovers a shocking truth and finds his loyalties tested, while Dopp’s machinations threaten to put Arianna’s life in jeopardy…

Peikoff’s terse, economic prose makes for a pacey thriller, though she possesses a talent for selecting the necessary details to give nuance to her characters without compromising the drama. This helps place Living Proof a cut above many of its competitors; it is an intelligent thriller filled with genuine intrigue and human drama and one that I am happy to recommend to any fans of the genre.

http://www.kirapeikoff.com

Tears After Bathtime as iPhone Users Duped by Social Media Hoax

by Matt Keleher

Apple users misled by an internet hoax, which tricked them into dunking their iPhones into water to test a new ‘waterproof’ feature were left high and dry after ruining their phones.

This real-life cautionary tale is proof that the old adage “Don’t believe everything you read” still rings true – even in the digital age.

It all started when a very plausible looking ad for Apple’s iOS 7 surfaced on social media. The ad, convincingly liveried in Apple’s minimalist style boasted that in upgrading to the new operating system, users would also be water-proofing their phone thanks to an inbuilt ‘smart-switch’ function.

Pictured: The spoof ad which circulated through social media channels

Pictured: The spoof ad which circulated through social media channels

 

“In an emergency, a smart-switch will shut off the phone’s power supply and corresponding components to prevent any damage to your iPhone’s delicate circuitry” the ad claimed. This predictably led to numerous users putting the ‘feature’ to the test and discovering they had been conned; aside from destroying their phones many also invalidated their warranties, which do not cover water damage – even accidental.

Numerous users hoodwinked by the scam vented their outrage over Twitter:

“Wtf iOS 7 isn’t waterproof! Now my phone’s at the bottom of the river”, wrote a user who apparently fell afoul of the prank.

“Whoever said ios7 was waterproof **** you” said another.

It is understood that the ad originated from notorious web-forum 4Chan, whose users have been responsible for a string of web controversies including the hacking of former Alska Governor Sarah Palin’s email account and the anonymous threat of a gun massacre at a Washington High School which led to school’s closure on September 20 last year.

Apple’s iOS 7 upgrade was released last week; the tech-giant announced yesterday that more than 200 million users have upgraded to the new system. While iOS 7 doesn’t offer water-proofing, the system does include an overhauled interface, improved security, navigation and data management features.

 

Film Focus: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

jiroposter

Certificate: PG

Starring: Jiro Ono, Yoshikazu Ono

Director: David Gelb

Running Time 81 minutes

SUSHI2

“What defines ‘deliciousness’? Taste is tough to explain, isn’t it? I would see ideas in dreams; my mind was bursting with ideas…in dreams I would have visions of sushi.”

-Jiro Ono-

Reviewed by Matt Keleher

Jiro Ono is 87 years old. He is also a world acclaimed sushi-master and proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro – an unassuming restaurant in a Tokyo subway, which many critics claim has no equal. David Gelb’s documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi  takes us into the world of a man who has dedicated his life to honing his culinary skill; forever striving to improve upon his best efforts.

Early on we learn that there is a month-long waiting list for his Michelin three-starred restaurant, which attracts sushi aficionados the world over; the remainder of the film expounds why. Jiro insists that all apprentices meet his exacting standards. Food critic Yamato, an avid fan of Jiro’s work explains some of the rigorous challenges that all apprentices must face: “An apprentice must first be able to properly hand-squeeze a towel. At first the towels are so hot, they burn the apprentice’s hands. Until you can adequately squeeze a towel, they won’t let you touch the fish.”

jiro

Pictured: Jiro Ono and his team at Sukiyabashi Jiro

Having mastered the towel, an apprentice begins to cut and in turn prepare fish sushi; at around 10 years’ experience they may be permitted to cook the more intricate egg dishes. Senior apprentice Nakazawa recounts his struggle to accomplish this difficult milestone; over a period of four months, Nakazawa prepared more than 200 egg sushi – all of which Jiro rejected. When he finally prepared a dish that made the grade, he was so happy, he cried!

The film doesn’t rely on visual finesse – nor should it; the colour texture and of the ingredients underscored by the simmering pots and a stirring soundtrack (featuring the music of Bach, Philip Glass and Mozart) are enough to make it a compelling watch. Yamato aptly likens dining at the Jiro’s to listening to a symphony; meals are served in three ‘movements’ with the sequence carefully selected so that the dishes build to a crescendo: add Jiro in the role of conductor and you have a truly unforgettable experience.

Hard work, discipline and the corollary sense of achievement are leitmotifs throughout the film; these themes are universal and this is a film you don’t need to be a connoisseur to enjoy. It’s clear that Jiro clearly has a remarkable talent and work ethic, which he says keep him feeling young. I left the film feeling inspired (and just a little hungry).

Watch the trailer here:

Have you seen this film? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section?