(director/writer: Wim Wenders; screenwriter: Takuma Takasaki; cinematographer: Franz Lustig; editor: Toni Froschhammer; music: Lou Reed; cast: Koji Yakusho (Hirayama), Tokio Emoto (Takashi), Arisa Nakano (Niko), Aoi Yamada (Aya), Yumi Aso (Keiko), Sayuri Ishikawa (Mama), Tomokazu Miura (Tomoyama), Min Tanaka (Homeless); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Takuma Takasaki, Wim Wenders, Koji Yanai, Yusuke Kobayashi, Reiko Kunieda, Keiko Tominaga; Neon; 2023-Japan/Germany-in Japanese and English, with English subtitles)
“A gentle art film on finding beauty in the mundane.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The 77-year-old great German documentarian Wim Wenders (“Tokyo-Ga”/”Wings of Desire”) comes up with a beauty in this simple fiction story set in Tokyo, that resonates as a gentle art film on finding beauty in the mundane. It’s a fine minimalist character study narrative that Wenders co-writes with Takuma Takasaki.
The likable protagonist is a mellow middle-aged man, Hirayama (Koji Yakusho), who diligently works as a toilet cleaner for the city and lives alone in a small apartment in Tokyo, that is stocked with well-cared for bonsai plants, a large book collection that includes many of the classics (like Faulkner), photographs of trees he took (a passion he got from reading the essays of Aya Koda), and a collection of largely American rock music on cassettes-including Lou Reed’s Perfect Days (whereby comes the title).
The laconic Hirayama leads a quiet, unassuming life, who eats every day a bowl of noodles at his favorite stall and lives in a bustling neighborhood with many cafes he sometimes visits.
Hirayama takes pride in his work and wishes his free-spirited younger assistant, (Tokio Emoto), would also take more pride in his work instead of acting like a clown.
His routine life is upset when his runaway teenage niece, Niko (Arisa Nakano), the daughter of his estranged sister Keiko (Yumi Aso), turns up at his apartment, after he hasn’t seen her for years, and he takes her in for a few days and lets her accompany him to work.
Through his interactions with his niece, we learn a little more about his past that might include his being abused as a child and that his troubled past might be an excuse for living such a solitary life.
At the same time of his niece’s surprise visit, he begins to show a romantic interest in an attractive divorcee (Sayuri Ishikawa) who runs the bar he goes to where she sings in Japanese “The House of the Rising Sun.”
It ends on a close-up of Hirayama’s face, as Nina Simone sings on the soundtrack.
Wenders’s sentimental film seems to want to know what are the perfect days we yearn for in this imperfect world.
The performance by Koji Yakusho is remarkable, as it enlivens the feel-good film.
It has been selected as Japan’s entry in the Best International Film category at this year’s Oscars.
It played at the Cannes Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 12/4/2023 GRADE: B