Cannes 2023: ‘Perfect Days’ is an Ode to the Beauty of Everyday Life
Wim Wenders turns the mundanity of everyday life into something extraordinary.
Following in the footsteps of Yasujiro Ozu, arguably the greatest director of all time, Wim Wenders turns the mundanity of everyday life into something extraordinary with ‘Perfect Days’.
The film follows the life of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho), a humble man hired by the city of Tokyo to sanitize state of the art public toilets in the Shibuya district. Hirayama takes his job very seriously, and performs his cleaning duties with a certain level of mastery that one can’t help but admire. When he’s not cleaning toilets, Hirayama enjoys the simple pleasures of life. He drives around the city listening to cassette tapes from the 70s and 80s, which makes for a feel-good soundtrack well worth seeking out.
The film is a celebration of the joys of everyday interactions with people we know and strangers alike. Everyone lives in their own world, but occasionally our worlds collide, no matter how far apart we are. With Hirayama, this comes in the form of his niece, who occasionally shows up at his home. Her mother, Hirayama’s sister, is clearly extremely well off, but wealth doesn’t seem to be an agenda for Hirayama. When his co-worker finds out the value of some of his cassette tapes, begging him to sell a batch to a local store, Hirayama refuses instantly.He’s a man of few words. In fact, we don’t hear him utter a single word till an hour into the film’s duration. Koji Yakusho delivers a heartfelt performance that could very well be the best of his career. Compassionate but never succumbing to sentimentality, Yakusho’s presence brings a gentleness that left me hanging on every line. But ‘Perfect Days’ is much more than a star vehicle; it’s an exquisite celluloid portraiture of the people living happily on the margins of society. Wenders peels away layers of sharp insights about the joys of living a modest unprivileged life. In the words of Charlie Chaplin, it’s a picture that will bring you “a smile and perhaps a tear.”
‘Perfect Days’ screened at the main competition of the Palm d’Or.