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perfect day— fortunately, a more ironic title than it originally appeared — borrowed, of course, from the work of almost the same name Lou Reed song. That song, a deeply misunderstood ode to a day that is rather more contradictory than it appears, eventually explodes into a chorus of “As you sow, you reap,” which has a side to it. obvious threat.
debut at Cannes Film Festival, Wim Wenders’ most recent film at the end of a surprisingly prolific career, songs seem to play a rather simple role in explaining the protagonist’s emotions: all the drops the needle here, taken from a ’60s tape that the protagonist plays in the car, seems to represent his current state of mind. At first, this is consistent with what seems like a very simple, not to say, simple story setting.
Time and again, we get to see Hirayama (Kōji Yakusho)’s almost completely peaceful daily routine as he gets up, cleans his folding mattress, brushes his teeth, trims his beard with a trimmer. pulls and selects a video to play on his commute, which includes cleaning public restrooms around Tokyo. On his lunch break, he sits in the same park and takes pictures of trees. At the end of the day, he eats in a cafe; On his days off, he cycles to public baths and exfoliates thoroughly.
The songs fit this ritualistic existence, especially because they are part of the simple joys that this quiet, unrelenting, borderline man seems to derive from His life seemed rather mundane. And, due to Wenders’ subtle cinematography, capturing beautiful cityscapes in carefully constructed frames, we also had fun: enjoying the sunlight streaming through the leaves; joy in the unusual architecture of public toilets; It was also enjoyable to watch the lot of cleaning and scrubbing work, done with diligence and care. However, a doubt begins to creep into the film, or perhaps a mystery. Are we looking at a simple description of Zen-like satisfaction, or is Hirayama much more than that? Is he clinging to these rituals like a belt? Do they make up for the lack in his life?
Part of that mystery stems from Yakusho’s beautiful performance in the lead role, whose still face is easy on the eyes, even gentle, but also careful to show something more, which something unknowable. When one of Hirayama’s carefully crafted routines is disrupted—his young co-worker, a goofy and heartless chatter, abruptly quits, leaving Hirayama to clean all the toilets throughout the city. street—the elderly man was completely confused. This first act of deregulation heralds further disturbances that will affect Hirayama’s life.
The first of these was the unexpected appearance of his runaway niece, who spent a few days with Hirayama in his small apartment. This has the effect of upsetting his routine both metaphorically and practically, causing him to leave his usual sleeping spot to make space for her. Wenders stars the pair for a sweet comedy, with shy Hirayama actually running away from his niece so as not to see her undress; The two of them also have a lovely relationship, based on their shared love of photography. However, when Hirayama’s sister came to pick up her niece from his home, we were shocked to see that she was an extremely wealthy woman who assumed that Hirayama was from the same background.
In other words, this man had deliberately chosen a life below his “station”; we understand, from the delicate tidbits of sibling dialogue, that Hirayama is recovering from what sounds like an abusive childhood. In a devastating moment, his sister begs him to visit their father, who is old and ailing. He refused. More mystery exists here, more beauty: strange dream sequences, shot in black and white; the city landscape is filled with night lights; a bar singer is reading a song in which Hirayama seems to lose himself in a private dream.
There is a delicacy, a kind of discreet intimacy, in these moments in which Wenders chooses to reveal information without resorting to drama. Because of the artful construction of the film, which reflects Hirayama’s habits but is a bit aloof, it feels like we’ve divulged something; that we are sharing secrets, in the most sensitive way possible.
If perfect day sometimes looks similar to that of Jim Jarmusch Paterson—another movie about a manual worker who finds fulfillment in everyday life—there are different, unusual pleasures here, including what appears to be a generous and sincere attachment. into Japanese culture. Some of the film’s meditative rehearsals can sometimes slip into a schmaltzy or anodyne state—for example, a pointless game Hirayama plays with a mysterious stranger, day in and day out, hide in a crevice of one of the bathrooms; let’s not go Amelie!—but Perfect Days’ flair, its humanity, is absolute.