I subscribed to Mubi last Wednesday, fell from my bicycle on Thursday, and took a leave on Friday. This gave me an unexpected amount time to watch two movies in a day: “Jiro dreams of sushi” and “Birdman”.
Jiro’s life is a recipe for success. He started making sushi at the age of 10. He believes in embracing a trade so much so that you don’t have a single reason to complain about it.
He practices this virtue by consistently trying to make his sushi better, with each passing day. The movie flows rhythmically, very much like the course of a meal at his sushi bar.
Riggan Thomson, on the other hand, epitomises failure with respect to the Hollywood dream. He is a fading superstar, who is trying to resurrect his career with a Broadway production.
He is selfishly trying to prove his worth, while being chaotic and miserable. The movie is very successful in trapping the viewers in Riggan’s head. His priorities dominate the screen, making the other characters seem almost interchangeable.
Both Jiro and Riggan have enormous willpower, but they utilise this energy in vastly different ways.
Jiro has been very strict with his sons, more than any other apprentice he’s ever had. But, that shows the kind of investment he has made in them.
Meanwhile, Riggan has been missing from his daughter’s life all throughout. And, Sam continues to patch that scar with other modes of satisfaction, including drugs and meaningless sex.
Jiro invests in his guests, so much so that a left-handed person will find the second batch of sushi served on his left-hand-side. And, he’ll go out of his way to find experts for each of his ingredients.
Meanwhile, Riggan is a victim of his circumstances and refuses to relieve himself from his obsession of himself. I think the narrow corridor in the film, is exactly as narrow as his perspective.
He treats every other person as dispensable, whereas he is desperate for their attention and approval. He is intolerant of an under-performing artist and manages to almost threaten a critic, while never managing to be prepared for his own performance.
Talking about taking control of things, Jiro memorises the seating arrangement of men and women and serves the women a slightly smaller portion, so they finish in time for the second course.
Jiro does not fear any critic. It is the critic who seems to be under stress while being served by him.
Riggan, on the other hand, gives the steering wheel of his entire life into the hands of a critic, while never knowing how to enjoy his art or have a wholesome view of his life.
Riggan is too self-absorbed to even notice and be grateful (or even complacent) about his achievements. On the flip side, Jiro embraces the misery of self-discipline as much as he embraces his success as a Michelin star chef.
I think that the only difference between a human and an animal is our free will—or the illusion of it. If a perspective shift can be so strong, just imagine how much strength seems to lie embedded in our daily choices.
Success, happiness, and fulfillment have as many definitions as the number of people in this world. And, it’s up to each one of us to make the most of it!