Perfect Days -Finding Joy In The Most Unlikely Places

Wim Wenders Oscar nominated Perfect Days, an illuminating examination of the human soul, a blessed relief from all the darkness in the theater and in the world today. The film’s star Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance, Babel) received the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of the film’s solitary figure, whose perfect days eventually must survive personal challenges from the past and present.

Perfect Days Directed by Wim Wenders
Award Winning Perfect Days star Koji Yakusho
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A review should never be about the reviewer but just the movie.  I’m going to break that rule, but first the movie. In Perfect Days by Wim Wenders (Anselm), we are drawn into the world of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho Best Actor Cannes 2023-Shall We Dance, Babel), whose world has a simplicity and  a sense of joy most of us would die for. Every morning he takes the first step outside his spartan living quarters, glances skyward, his face filling with a smile and his body with life’s energy. Driving to work the party continues with well worn cassettes of Van Morrison, Lou Reed and The Animals.  The music is used to enhance the mood without taking center stage, which is reserved for Yakusho, one of Japan’s most celebrated actors. In fact the songs are often cut off midstream as Hirayama reaches his workplace which are the  Tokyo toilets. Did I forget to mention his life’s work is to clean the public toilets in Tokyo? To be fair many of these facilities are custom designed by award winning architects who shape them into mini cottages, squids and angular masterpieces. Originally Wenders was designated to make a promo for these facilities.  Instead he turned it into Japan’s Oscar Nominated feature and a meaningful movie that is a blessed relief from all the darkness in the theater and in the world today.

Official Trailer For Perfect Days

What meaning does he find in cleaning toilets?  I think it is more in doing something right, polishing sinks, mirrors and door handles to perfection.  I once had what many thought was a dead end job. And grieved for the glittering chances that I let slip away until an associate of Ram Dass, a spiritual master said to me you can be your best, you can be Buddha and find happiness in any job. As the San Francisco wharf was a blessing to me, Hirayama has transcendent moments in a park near work where he captures the dance of light and shadows with his outdated little camera. He is celebrated even after work where he is gifted free drinks by a hostess who later sings a song familiar from his tape collection House of The Rising Sun.

Chaos first comes in the form of  his young hip co-worker Takashi (Tokio Emoto), often late, a little lazy and enlists our hero to help secure the affections of bar girl, Aya (Aoi Yamada). During a ride home she exclaims how much she loves Hirayama’s tape of Patti Smith’sRedondo Beach” and then asks him if he subscribes to Spotify which of course is an alien concept. Takashi quits without notice as does Hirayama’s peace. Exasperated, he must now do the work for two after all the help he has sent Takashi’s way.

A new challenge emerges in the form of his teenage niece, Niko (Arisa Nakano) who, having run away from home, seeks refuge and comfort with Hirayama. And we see another chamber of his heart open and a door to his past and the people in it. Without giving away the secrets of his past life, I will say that the ending is illuminated by Koji Yakusho’s emotional range. It is beautifully summed up by the one song that we hear from beginning to end which is played out on Hirayama’s face. As someone who was slated to be a music supervisor before I chose unwisely Los Angeles instead of interning in Brooklyn; this is a perfect song to end Perfect Days. Perfect Days is in theaters and now streaming on Amazon Prime.

About Bob Hershon 10 Articles
Multimedia lab specialist at a College. Photographer and journalist mainly for Jazz Magazines in the 90's. Wrote about soundtracks and did press releases for Verve Gitanes after that. Worked at the Menlo Park VA (1969-1970 same one Ken Kesey was at earlier. He's older. It was a cuckoo's nest. My first day they kept me in locked ward to show me who was boss. They fed vets mellaril (thioridazine) which turned them into Walking Dead with tremors (pseudoparkinsonism, extrapyramidal symptoms), There is a warning now that says must only be used if nothing else works. God then reached out his hand and moved me to Palo Alto VA (under the best scientist I've ever met, Leo Hollister)1971-1974. Part of the group were two other geniuses Hamp Gillespie and Jared Tinklenberg, M.D. I was just a research assistant on my way to screwing up a doctorate. Burt Center Residential Treatment Center for Autistic and traumatized children and young adults 71-74 under Mary Burt who pioneered treament of Autism. Family Service Agency of SF before recovering my sanity at Canada College Music School. John Kreiger and Phillip Ienni guided me to the light and polytonality and pandiatonicism. To stay sane I played guitar for 40 years. The picture was taken years ago. I have gone gray and old.

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