Situated somewhere between Jiro Dreams of Sushi and The Cove, Mark Hall’s Sushi: The Global Catch highlights both the artistry of sushi making and the shrinking population of one of its most popular ingredients: the bluefin tuna. “The craftsmanship of a master is different from the elegance of an artist,” an interviewee tells us early on; that his words are preceded, in this documentary’s opening scene, with footage of an old samurai movie is no coincidence. Hall implicitly shows that the best, most disciplined sushi chefs are cut from the same cloth as the katana-wielding warriors of yore, and there’s nary a moment he isn’t persuasive on this point. The years-long process of actually becoming a sushi chef includes an exhaustive apprenticeship—it takes a full two years to learn how to prepare rice, according to one master—and concludes, after the better part of a decade, with the candidate finally being ready to serve customers alone while engaging in small talk and flattery. Hall charts seemingly every aspect of the sushi business imaginable, whether it be carefully selecting and auctioning individual fish from the market or, in what proves his eventual focus, its impact on fish populations. This kaleidoscopic meticulousness proves comprehensive without ever feeling tedious, an especially impressive feat considering how quickly it becomes message-oriented. There’s the old adage about not wanting to see how the sausage is made, of course, but Hall manages to subvert it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 1, 2012