"Perfect Days" Wim Wenders
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film ‘Perfect Days’ review: Wim Wenders’ quiet slice-of-life Japanese drama

‘Perfect Days’ review: Wim Wenders’ quiet slice-of-life Japanese drama

"Perfect Days" Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders’ latest, “Perfect Days”, sounds like the culmination of the director’s long appointment with Japanese virtuoso Ozu Yasujirō, which includes Wenders’ 1985 Ozu documentary “Tokyo-Ga”, and manifests itself here as a distinctly Ozu observance of life and rhythm. First commissioned as a short film project celebrating Tokyo’s state-of-the-art public toilets – the great social equalizer – Wenders grasps the concept and doesn’t so much run with it as stroll with it through the park as he contemplates the dreams, the dignity of the work and the fleeting joys of waking moments.

Hashimoto Kōji plays Hirayama, a quiet middle-aged toilet cleaner and the embodiment of contentment, or so it would seem. He begins each day in her closet-sized duplex by carefully watering his plants, folding down the mattress next to the huge shelf of books and tapes, and poking his head out the front door to soak in the morning air. Wenders captures his routine at eye level, meaning he starts at floor level, nearly kissing the ground with his camera (an act of appreciation in itself), before focusing on close-ups of Hirayama in his long drive to work in his minivan, carefully stocked with cleaning supplies.

Famous American drops abound, each justified by Hirayama’s attempt to soundtrack his own life (his morning commute begins with “The Animals” by The AnimalsHouse of the Rising Sun”), followed by a painstaking and detailed depiction of the aforementioned public baths, each uniquely designed and each an architectural and technical marvel in its own right. At the end of her day, she joins smiling strangers and acquaintances for a hot meal at a local restaurant.

The routine repeats itself, each time with a more condensed editing so that, like Hirayama, the audience never gets tired. Even the annoying detours are usually minor, involving Hirayama’s young slacker colleague (Emoto Tokio), who is as impressed as he is perplexed by Hirayama’s dedication to the job. His short lunch breaks include a trip to a garden where he takes cinematic photographs of nature, scenes that are mirrored in moments during his working day when his gaze falls on a beautiful pattern of light sparkling on a concrete surface (for courtesy of Franz Lustig poetic cinematography).

Soon comes a wistful realization: that Hirayama may be an artist of some sort, but he can’t or won’t follow his passions. Even his dreams, painted in black and white, reconstruct the images and events of the day in a condensed, impressionistic form. He lives a life of small satisfactions in the present: his life is everything be present – though there’s virtually no hints or directions beyond that for long stretches.

It takes well over an hour of the film’s 2-hour runtime before we learn anything about who Hirayama once was, thanks to the sudden appearance of an enthusiastic granddaughter who takes her under her wing. Who him AND remains cinematically intriguing, as the film spends its second half slowly unveiling what lies beneath its veneer of contentment. However, Wenders’ approach to this dichotomy is devoid of cynicism; he presents Hirayama not as a walking falsehood, but as a truthful representation of the way life should, in theory, be lived. Her routine, her care, and her kindness to him don’t exist as extensions of her unsavory past—of which little detail ultimately emerges—but they exist nonetheless.

The character is ambitious in a sense, but never inhumane. Several vignettes have him crossing paths with other characters in peril, some of which he helps, but even he wears blinders when it comes to other people’s complete worlds, which he has access to through the tiny window of his perspective. . If anything, his biggest “flaw” as a character is the one shared by the camera: he only sees a tiny sliver of life at any given moment.

The film’s needle drops are undoubtedly on the nose (on paper, the soundtrack might as well be stolen from “Suicide Squad”) but it’s heavy-handed Gen X-ism — including “Lou Reed’s”Perfect day” – is not so much a statement as a desperate search. Hirayama is a man spiritually connected to the world around him, but “the world” in this case includes nature, concrete structures, light and temperature, even if it rarely involves other people.

His apparent lack of past emanates as if from a vacuum of human interaction and reflection, a disconnect that the other characters occasionally joke about. It is isolation by choice, and its reasons are never made clear, even though the film provides enough hints and gestures that anything more detailed might seem like a story break in which even the most natural shots and performances betray a sense of abstraction.

The film can feel lighthearted at times, with few moments that really punctuate its intentionally languid plot. But Hirayama makes it feel very much alive, as if the only direction Wenders had given Hashimoto was to create a performance that, like “Perfect Days” itself, evokes (but never directly quotes) Shimura Takashi in “Ikiru.” by Kurosawa Akira. It builds, in the process, to a jaw-dropping and genuinely moving crescendo, seemingly born of the fact that no film, let alone one so restrained, could contain such highly pressurized drama and interiority, to the point that Wenders has little choice. but letting a lifetime of Hirayama’s story ooze off the screen all at once in a silent final scene that’s worth the entire previous running time.

Grade: YES+

“Perfect Days” Befored at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution in the United States.

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