How do you define a perfect day?
For auteur Wim Wenders, the ideal day is spent capturing the subtleties of life. Wenders’ “Perfect Days” follows public toilet cleaner Hirayama (Koji Yakusho) as he unexpectedly meets new characters who awaken a deeper sense of contentment in him. Hirayama’s routine of listening to music on cassette tapes, reading, and taking photos of trees (this guy’s analog, even as those around him aren’t) is endearingly upended as he confronts his past and finds happiness in the present, especially with his niece.
As IndieWire’s review wrote, “Who he is remains cinematically intriguing, as the film spends its latter half slowly unraveling what lies beneath his 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 depiction of the way life should, in theory, be lived. His routine, his care and his kindness don’t exist as extensions of his unpleasant past — scant details of which eventually emerge — but they exist despite it.”
“Perfect Days” debuted at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival before screening at NYFF and Telluride. Lead star Yakusho won Best Actor at Cannes. Wenders’ 3D film “Anselm”, about German artist Anselm Kiefer, will also premiere in theaters this fall, while “Perfect Days” represents Japan in the Best International Feature Oscar race.
During an honorary ceremony at Telluride, Wenders revealed that filmmaker Yazujiro Ozu inspired the “Perfect Days” character Hirayama. Originally envisioned as a documentary about toilet cleaners in Tokyo, Wenders later wrote the “Perfect Days” script in three weeks. The film was shot in 50 days.
“He’s from a different world,” Wenders told IndieWire’s Anne Thompson of Hirayama. “But he does connect and he has something contagious about him for the young people who he meets in the film, he does gain their respect. Because he’s so convincing in his beliefs. I just wanted to make this man really rich and interesting and modest, and at the same time, full of something good. He’s a happy camper. He’s a man who enjoys his life. And as that has become such a rare thing today, we felt it was worth it. And the big idea was really that this is a man who totally lives in the present day. And who lives every moment and enjoys what he does. He doesn’t need more than what he enjoys. And he doesn’t want more.”
“Perfect Days” premieres November 10 at the Angelika Film Center for a one-week run, as distributed by Neon. The film finds a wider release in 2024. Check out the trailer below.