Monday, February 5, 2024

Small Things

Perfect Days (2023) - Wenders Screen Shot 2023-12-10 at 8.25.56 AM Screen Shot 2023-12-10 at 8.35.39 AM Screen Shot 2023-12-10 at 8.40.51 AM Screen Shot 2023-12-10 at 8.42.28 AM Screen Shot 2023-12-10 at 9.04.54 AM Screen Shot 2023-12-10 at 9.25.52 AM Screen Shot 2023-12-10 at 8.44.47 AM It's been a long while that Wim Wenders made a good film. So this Japan shot with all Japanese cast Perfect Days is sort of a comeback for the filmmaker. And the beauty is in its simplicity.

Koji Yakusho plays Hirayama, a city worker who cleans the public toilets. His simple daily routine is repeated day after day, starting in his modest small apartment in Tokyo- he gets up at the sound of a neighbor sweeping the streets in early dawn, puts away his beddings, brushes his teeth, puts on his onesie blue uniform, picks up the items that are laid out on side table on the way out, picks up a canned coffee from a bending machine next to his house, off in his blue van full of cleaning supplies to the various public toilets in the city, eats his lunch in the park, takes some pictures with his old style 35mm film camera, works some more, goes home, change, goes to the public bath house to bathe, then to a eatery in a market for dinner, reads in bed a little bit, then goes to bed. Repeat.

He is a man of few words. There are some who knows him and regularly greets him. He finds life's pleasures in small things - the sunlight shining through the tree branches, listening to classic rock on cassette tape in his van, finding and reading books from a dollar rack at a local bookstore. He doesn't bother anybody and doesn't let others get to him too much. There are others - his young colleague and his girlfriend, his young niece who runs away from home to stay in his tiny apartment, an ex-husband of a bar hostess at the bar that he frequents on his day off. He interacts with them, not in many words, but with warmth and smiles. Yakusho, nearing his 70s, showing his age and experience in his bad-liver eyes, doesn't have to explain much. He's seen things and experienced things. And that's enough.

There's a certainly a backstory on Hirayama that is left unexplored, rather wisely by Wenders and co-writer Takuma Takasaki. Cleaning toilet is the lowest job one can think of. But it's just a job. If it's a self punishment, we do not get to know. But I think he is past all that. He's just an old man, living his quiet life all by himself happily. It's the repetition of his daily routine, and being happy to know that there is another day that he can see the sunrise, swaying leaves, listen to Lou Reed and Patti Smith and drink a canned coffee.

Shot on full frame and with simple but elegant layered black and white images and interior lighting that reminds you of Robbie Müller days, Perfect Days is a beautifully framed film.

There's a very zen-like quality in Perfect Days. Is that Wenders converting the Buddhism late in life? There's a scene where two grown men, one dying of cancer, playing shadow tag, like little children. Perfect Days is a guiless movie that makes you think about enjoying simple things in life. Forget about the complicated life you are leading in a complicated world for a second. Play childish games once in a while and enjoy the moment.

The film opens on 2/7 at Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Square.