Film: Jiro Dreams of Sushi [2011, japan]
Where: Los Angeles @ Nuart
Who with: SJ
Ratings: ***; SJ: ***1/2
I don't like sushi. I've never liked the idea of eating something raw as a lot of traditional sushi is served. The element of "rawness" combined with the texture of uncooked fish creates one of the only food-related topics I'm leery of becoming a convert to. Strange textured foods have a hard time with me. The documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a celebration of the utter simplicity of sushi and master chef Jiro Ono. Based out of a small, famous, three Michelin Star restaurant, Ono discusses many reasons why his sushi is deemed better than all others. It takes fanatical attention to repetitive details, the use of the best ingredients and the never ending pursuit of culinary perfection. Ono has been trying to maintain a level of perfection for many, many decades. He's in his 80s now, but is still working long hours every single day and expects everyone else at the restaurant to do the same.
I admire the relentless, unwavering dedication of Ono and there are lessons to be drawn from him in whatever field a person might find themselves. Most people won't be able to come close to approaching his single-minded determination though. I even liked seeing the sushi prepared and placed on the small, black square plate. It often resembles a small piece of edible art. The problem with the documentary is that it gets monotonous with too much sushi being put onto plates. When the film veers into topics connected to Ono's restaurant--the fish market, the relationship between father and son, the apprentices, the customers--Ono becomes an even more interesting character. When we watch scene after scene of Ono dispensing sushi, he becomes less interesting, as it's only so captivating to see a guy plate sushi so many times. I was really into seeing how Ono's commitment to austerity translated into other areas of his life and the people who work for him. We get a little bit, but not enough, there were the never-ending shots of other kinds of sushi instead. Sushi restaurants should link up with screenings of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, people are going to want to eat it after seeing the mouthwatering, loving way the filmmakers portray sushi.
Film: Klown: The Movie [2011, denmark]
Where: Los Angeles @ Cinefamily
Who with: SJ
Ratings: ****; SJ: ***
Klown is a Danish film that is being touted as a wildly politically incorrect comedy that channels Curb Your Enthusiasm. Obviously, I liked the sound of that description enough that I found myself at one of only two Los Angeles screenings. Is it an accurate description? Yes! Sort of. It's got the politically incorrect, say whatever you feel vibe, but without the latent neurosis that is ever present on Curb. You judge a film like Klown on laughs and I laughed hard and often during the screening at the outlandish antics of the two lead dimwits.
Klown is based on an TV show that I'd really like to see after watching the film. Produced by Lars von Trier's Zentropa, the film plays like a Dogme 95 production stuffed with filthy set-ups and inappropriate hi-jinks as two buddies go on a canoe trip they've dubbed "Tour de P*ssy" that pretty much sums up their main goal. Canoeing and fornicating have never really mixed in film [not counting the forced fornication that takes place in something like Deliverence] before, but these two have arranged it in such a way that the two pursuits are combined. Must be a Danish thing. The tour is given a challenge when an awkward, chubby, teenage boy is brought along to make one of the guys seem more fatherly. Obviously, this isn't a good idea and leads to all kinds of trouble and mayhem as the tour unfolds.
There are some genuinely dirty situations, sight gags and moments in Klown. As the pair become further embroiled in one awkward mess, they extricate themselves and then get thrown into another embarrassing scene. What makes Klown much more than just a filthy comedy though is the absolute dead-pan quality of the film. The film has the usual low-budget, shot on DV style of many of von Trier's Zentropa productions and this adds to the feeling of intimacy between these two nut jobs and the trip into lunacy that we are witnessing. A film like Klown has a better chance of success if you watch it with an audience as the shared community of laughing at something that pushes the boundaries of taste is infectious. You know it's wrong, yet it is still so funny and Klown is the funniest film I've seen in a long, long time.