Perfect Days is Wim Wender‘s minimalist Tokyo set drama is a sweet rumination on the small joys of life.
Starring Kōji Yakusho
Hirayama, a middle-aged man, works as a toilet cleaner in Tokyo. His life is mundane, a series of repeated actions. Perfect Days reminds us of the simple pleasures in life. The film, a late-career triumph from famed German director Wim Wenders, is an oasis in a world of horror. The simple pleasures in life, music, gardening, photography, reading, and even scrubbing toilets are meditative things for Hirayama.
Oddly, Perfect Days, nominated for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Oscars, is the first film not directed by a Japanese filmmaker to be selected as this year’s Japanese entry. Surprisingly, Ryusuke Hamaguchi‘s Evil Does Not Exist, or the epic Godzilla Minus One, wasn’t nominated instead. The film, a Japanese and German co-production, is thankfully neither a piece of class tourism or Asian kitsch.
Grounded by the wonderful Kōji Yakusho, who plays the largely non-verbal Hirayama, Perfect Days is akin to Jim Jarmusch‘s Paterson or Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Both are structured around routine. Hirayam is awoken by a neighbour each morning brushing leaves. He then begins his day graciously, thankful for the gift of life. Hirayama’s life may be imperfect; his coworker is always late, and money is tight, but his cassette tapes and potted plants are a modest comfort.
The gentle reverberations from chance encounters threaten to throw Hirayama’s life off-balance. He meets the woman his coworker is yearning for, he plays tic-tac-toe with a stranger, and his niece shows up unannounced. Life will always find a way to surprise you, even if you seek the numbing comfort of a familiar routine.
Perfect Days may be overly naïve and a touch trite in its tender musing on life’s simple pleasures. The film can be excused for its dewy-eyed worldview however. The golden sun rises over Tokyo as Perfect Days slowly rolls towards its strikingly low-key finale. Light shimmers off sparkling skyscrapers and leaves flutter. These last ten minutes are well worth the cost of admission. Without an ounce of cynicism, as Tokyo arises from its slumber, Hirayama is laid bare with raw humanness.