REVIEW: Perfect Days is a celebration of the beauty of the present


The 78-year-old German director Wenders went to Japan in Perfect Days. Their hero, played by Yakushi, is a cleaner of Japanese public toilets. And although it may not be an attractive profession, Hirajama performs it conscientiously and with the care worthy of a luxury hotel. He is definitely not ashamed of the work, over time we even sense that he doesn’t have to do it, that it is his choice.

And just as he does routine work, he also navigates routine in his lonely life. According to a precise schedule, he gets up in the morning, cleans, brushes his teeth and trims his moustache, waters his bonsai collection, gets a coffee from the vending machine and goes to work.

His days are mundane, and we feel the perfection of a precise schedule in Hirajama’s every action. Whether he is working or having lunch in the park, going to a public bath or a restaurant, he is Zen-calm, smiling and also very uninhibited. He takes care of his plants, reads, takes pictures of trees with an analog camera, and most of all listens to old cassette tapes with hits from the seventies.

GLOSSARY: Perfect days. Wenders tells the story of the humble life of a Japanese cleaner

In flight movie

His younger colleague, who doesn’t understand why Hirayama puts so much energy into his work, is his direct opposite. His emotions are gushing out of him, but work is just a duty for him.

Wenders has made a film that wins over audiences as Hirajama himself wins over. A smiling man, although he usually does not speak, but expresses his feelings and joy of life, pride and friendliness towards the world all the more impressively, one simply has to fall in love and admire Jakuš’s excellent minimalistic performance.

Only after a longer time, when we follow Hirayama’s everyday life from slightly different points of view, the routine is disrupted by the arrival of his niece Niko. The girl who seems to have run away from home is then a means for Wenders to express in her sparse but impressive dialogues the praise of being present, of living each moment.

Photo: Aerofilms

Koji Yakusho and Arisa Nakano as uncle and niece

“When is the next time?” asks Niko, who would like her uncle to take her to the sea. “Next time is next time. Now is now,” Hirayama answers, but only when we are already tuned into his chords.

In contrast to the routine and benign calm, Wenders captures the hustle and bustle of the big city with its overcrowded streets, skyscrapers and general hustle and bustle, which seems completely unnecessary in the background of Hirajamo’s life. The contrast is impressive, but it raises the question of whether Wenders is a little too old-fashioned after all.

Nevertheless, perfect days is a very pleasant, audience-friendly film despite the hero’s profession, which is beautifully complemented by the hits of Patti Smith, The Animals, Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and others.

Perfect days
Japan/Germany 2023, 123 min. Directed by: Wim Wenders, starring: Koji Yakušo, Min Tanaka, Tokio Emoto and others
Rating: 85%

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