Monday, December 16, 2013

Writing - Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and Art

Writing - Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I finally watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi tonight.  It's a movie that won a number of awards last year, especially for its visual cinematography.

Sometimes, especially after having done a lot of work for a long stretch of time, I need to take some time or a few days to compress.



I didn't know a whole lot about the movie going in, other than that it was visually amazing.  Obviously it is about one exquisite master sushi chef, I mean that much is clear.  Jiro Yoshino is the star of the film, and obviously the title character.  What is more aparent though is that the film is not...well not JUST about sushi.  Sushi is this sort of brilliant artistic metaphor for both the heights of technical and artistic skill, but also as this kind of tragic metaphor.  At least insofar as I saw it.

I don't want to spoil too much of it, but I thought I'd leave this quote here for further reflection by Ebert about the film.

"While watching it, I found myself drawn into the mystery of this man. Are there any unrealized wishes in his life? Secret diversions? Regrets? If you find an occupation you love and spend your entire life working at it, is that enough? Standing behind his counter, Jiro notices things. Some customers are left-handed, some right-handed. That helps determine where they are seated at his counter. As he serves a perfect piece of sushi, he observes it being eaten. He knows the history of that piece of seafood. He knows his staff has recently started massaging an octopus for 45 minutes and not half an hour, for example. Does he search a customer's eyes for a signal that this change has been an improvement? Half an hour of massage was good enough to win three Michelin stars. You realize the tragedy of Jiro Ono's life is that there are not, and will never be, four stars."

It made me think a lot about the process of perfecting.  I mean really, really perfecting a skill.  Even Yoshino doesn't really consider himself to have 'perfected' his craft, he is just by and far leagues ahead of everyone else.  He has spent more time, he has dedicated more of his life, he has worked harder, practiced longer, lived further, gone and done more, forced his family to exist outside of his craft, or take up his mangle.  He has become a kind of immutable artist in the pursuit of mastery.

And mastery of what?  Of the ultimate strange dichotomy of placing a piece of fish in exquisite balance against a small bundle of perfectly cooked rice.

But it is still...sushi.  I thought among my friends, Mike refuses to touch seafood.  Actually I have several friends who categorically refuse to eat seafood, others don't touch animals or fish, or any meat at all.  What if they were faced with this man's expression to the world?  I mean the 300 dollar seat at his 11 chair restaurant aside.  Assuming you could even get a booking.

This 85 year old man, who freely admits he is at the very end of the proverbial race of his life...has mastered his art form.  He is world renowned, there are no higher honors for him to take upon his shoulders.  Could he be leading a five hundred cover dining room?  Sure.  But he does not.  He has perfected his sushi bar, the experience, the careful balance of himself as chef and his diners for their experience in exquisite taste.

But it is just...sushi.

I mean at the end of the day, his artistry is...sushi.

The same as any of us, be us painters, or musicians, or actors or writers.  We master and move forward, we perfect.

We sacrifice.

We sacrifice a lot, and we ask very little for it.

I have dedicated more than a decade now at being an artist.  I have innumerable writings, journals, paintings, pieces of music.  I have collaborated with hundreds of artists across the world, touched sculpture and art, been witness to millions of words of musical notes.  I have seen spectacle as large as stadium shakers, to lying face down on concrete to observe the strangest perspective-marionette show of my life for a single audience member.

Now I spend weeks or months crafting these surreal blends of storytelling experiences to evoke fascinating twists of story and emotion, dolled out in 15 minute to one hour increments.  A kind of strange maestro who crafts orchestration in bits and bytes, curious binary painting of the human condition.

I am strangely fascinated tonight, curious and eloquently contented.  We could have been anything.

But I picked this.

And that was something of itself.

In 60 years, if a man like Ebert might posit that the tragedy of my life was that I had dedicated myself to exploring, in curiosity the human condition, injustice and insight, then I might like to refer him to this post, made in the dying light of my youth as I became an adult.  That I chose this, and it was not a tragedy.

This is the expression of myself.