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'Perfect Days': How Wim Wenders Challenges the Modern Perspective

"Perfect Days" follows the simple life of a janitor who views the world with kindness, challenging the often complex, materialistic outlook of modern society.



Director and cinematographer Wim Wenders in an interview following the release of his latest movie, "Perfect Days." (© Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)

Perfect Days, which earned lead actor Koji Yakusho the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival, is now showing at cinemas in Japan. The film is directed by Wim Wenders, a German master of film renowned for his exceptional road movies. He is also famous for his deep appreciation of Japanese culture, including his admiration for the legendary director Yasujiro Ozu. In an interview, Wenders talked with The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward.

Wenders' latest film was originally conceived as a series of several short documents about the "Tokyo Toilet" initiative. In collaboration with globally acclaimed architects like Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma, "Tokyo Toilet" aims to redesign and transform the image of public toilets in Shibuya, Tokyo. 

In May 2022, Wenders visited Japan for the first time in 11 years to research for the scenario. Upon witnessing the public toilets designed by major architects like Tadao Ando, Wenders found a completely new source of inspiration. "I felt they were part of a bigger picture and realized I could create something that captures the essence of the city of Tokyo," he explains. This vision ultimately materialized into a feature film.

The Jingu-Dori Park Toilet, designed by Tadao Ando. (Photo by Satoshi Nagare courtesy of The Nippon Foundation)

A Simple Life in the Spotlight

Perfect Days depicts the simple, day-to-day life of the protagonist Hirayama (played by Koji Yakusho). He works as a janitor who lives alone in an old apartment. Every morning, Hirayama is woken up by the sound of a bamboo broom sweeping the nearby street. After work, he enjoys a drink at his usual izakaya, reads a second-hand book on his futon, and then falls asleep. He repeats this routine every day.

Koji Yakusho was honored with the Best Actor award for his performance in "Perfect Days." (©MASTER MIND Ltd.)

Despite his lack of financial affluence or family, Hirayama seems content in his uncomplicated existence. In a world saturated with materialism and strained familial and interpersonal relationships, Hirayama's simple way of living may appear enviable. Especially to those in constant need of decluttering in the modern age.

Changing the Modern Perspective

Wenders wrote the film's script with creative director Takuma Takasaki. "The characterization of the protagonist was the most crucial aspect of the work," Wenders says. "Takasaki-san and I tried to imagine our ideal Hirayama. He is a very simple man but also a happy one. He lives in the present and is proud to be of service to others."

Wim Wenders (© Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)

The protagonist's name was inspired by the character played by Chishu Ryu in Ozu Yasujiro's Tokyo Story (1953). The decision to cast Yakusho was made early in the process. After watching over 10 of Yakusho's films, including Shall We Dance? (1996), Wenders was convinced that Yakusho was "a versatile and excellent actor capable of handling any role."

He says, "Hirayama is the kind of man who notices the sunlight that seeps through the tree branches and seedlings growing under trees. Yakusho-san portrays this with the kindness of his gaze and the expression of his eyes. The audience will likely empathize with his perspective. I hope this film will change how the audience sees the world."

"Perfect Days" by Wim Wenders (©2023 MASTER MIND Ltd.)

Perfect Days was released in Japanese cinemas on December 22. Its main cast includes Koji Yakusho, Min Tanaka, Tokio Emoto, Sayuri Ishikawa, and Tomokazu Miura. The running time is 124 minutes.

About Wim Wenders

Born in 1945 in Düsseldorf, Germany, Wim Wenders has established himself as a prominent figure in the film industry. His contributions to cinema have garnered prestigious accolades, including the top prize at the Venice Film Festival for The State of Things (1982), the highest honor at the Cannes Film Festival for Paris, Texas (1984), and the Best Director award at the Berlin International Film Festival for Wings of Desire (1987). In 2022, Prince Takamado honored Wenders with the Praemium Imperiale in the Theatre/Film division.

Director and cinematographer Wim Wenders in an interview. (© Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Keiko Mizunuma


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