Saturday, December 7, 2013

NOVEMBER 2013: The Past, Chasing Ice & Jiro Dreams of Sushi

The Past

Director: Asghar Farhadi
With: Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet

Asghar Farhadi is quickly climbing up the top of my favorite directors list. Just less than two years after his excellent A Separation, he's able to create yet another brilliant piece in The Past.

A Separation is my number 1 favorite film of 2011 so I was sure that The Past will probably turn out to be an inferior film between the two. But while I prefer A Separation, The Past proved to be another masterpiece by the Iranian director and screenwriter. He's so good in building up characters and stories that twists and turns and new angles never stop coming as the film progressed. Each character, even the most random ones, carry heavy feelings within them without being over the top and Farhadi's storylines are always inclined with reality which I appreciate. He's so keen in small details and I always like that about him because those elements become necessary for the totality of the film, making each scenes and aspects, even the smallest ones, important. What's more impressive is that he does it without extravagant shots and scores in the background and still manages to make the film more compelling. He's really impressive and I won't be surprised if his work gets nominated again in this year's Oscar.

Bérénice Bejo is so beautiful in this film and she acted wonderfully as well. I didn't like her in The Artist but I've found new respect in her because of The Past. May I also mention that she's super gorgeous that even if her character is not the most pleasant character you'll encounter, everything is forgiven because her beautiful face is just irresistible. Her co-actors Tahar Rahim and Ali Mosaffa were also great.

The film is flawless and I can't wait to see more films of Farhadi in the future.

Chasing Ice

Director: Jeff Orlowski
With: James Balog

One afternoon I decided to rewatch the 85th Oscar Awards ceremony. It was then when I realized how beautiful Scarlett Johansson's cold voice in the Academy Award nominated original song 'Before My Time' featured in the documentary Chasing Ice. The song alone made me want to watch it.

Chasing Ice conveys two contrasting stories - one is how ridiculously beautiful the calving of glaciers look like and second, how spookily alarming the effects of these beautiful events to our entire planet. Documentaries about climate change is ubiquitous that Chasing Ice is probably the fourth or the fifth documentary I've seen this year that tackles it. But Chasing Ice is probably the most committed as it shows actual events of the changes in our planet. It relied minimally on charts, graphs and reports and instead, a team lead by James Balog endured the extreme climates in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska to document the harrowing events that take place in the glaciers of these areas within a short period of time. Like what James Balog said, upon thinking of Global warning, the first thing that came to his mind was Ice and he pursued it, not only for the love of photography, but also to show the naysayers of climate change.

But enough about the climate change. Because despite thinking that Chasing Ice probably has the most evidence of the rapid shift of climate among all documentaries I've seen, I don't think that it's the most effective. The material in this documentary is too beautiful to focus on their aim. It also doesn't help that I'm a fan of nature so watching this made me focus solely on the beauty of nature. All I can say is that glaciers are amazing and way to go James Balog

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Director: David Gelb
With: Jiro Ono, Takashi Ono, Yoshikazu Ono

I never liked Sushi nor I was interested in watching anything about it, so I wasn't that intrigued to watch this documentary when it was recommended by a friend. But I watched it anyway and I must say that it's highly enjoyable.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is about Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master chef who owns a Michelin three star restaurant Sukibayashi Jiro in Japan. It also follows his two sons, both of whom are also sushi chefs - Yoshikazu, the elder brother is obligated to succeed his father's legacy and Takashi, who opened a mirror version of his father's restaurant. The documentary also features Jiro's customers, critics, apprentices, friends and local suppliers.

Matched with the notable scores of Phillip Glass and other classical music, glossy shots of Jiro's restaurant despite being small, and simple yet mouth watering sushis of Jiro varying from eels, gizzards, squid, eggs, urchins, shrimps, lean, medium and fatty tunas, this documentary is such a pleasure to watch. Everything about it is so fascinating - from Jiro's tales about his history, to the engaging stories of his sons and colleagues, everything falls into Jiro's greatness. This documentary doesn't only rest on fascinating its viewers, but it also inspires with Jiro's great practices and wisdom. It's about honing your skills and pursuing your passion as it showed not only the stories of the people on top of the restaurant's hierarchy, but it also showed the beginnings of the apprentices working in Jiro's restaurant. Jiro adds to the list of successful and iconic men who did not excel in school but climbed up the ladder of success through hardwork, skill and exquisite approach in pursuing his strong interest. It's truly inspirational.

This documentary succeeds in entertaining and inspiring its viewers and even to its last few scenes, it amazes us with Jiro's touching twist. Kudos Jiro! One day, I'll visit your restaurant and I hope to meet you.