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February 16, 2024 / Elevation Pictures

Starring: Kôji Yakusho, Tokio Emoto, Arisa Nakano, Aoi Yamada, Yumi Aso, Sayuri Ishikawa, Tomokazu Miura, Min Tanaka

Directed By: Wim Wenders

Hirayama (Kôji Yakusho) is a cleaner of public toilets in Tokyo. He lives alone in a small house full of plants, his days going by according to quiet rhythms that never seem to change. His is a neighborhood of tiny cafés frequented by the same people, of bookshops that sell works by Patricia Highsmith or young, contemporary Japanese writers.

Hirayama speaks very little, but he has a great passion for music, books, and the trees he loves to photograph. As he drives to work in his minivan, fully equipped with his cleaning gear, The Rolling Stones, Patti Smith, or Lou Reed ring in ageless, husky hums from a tape player.

Written By Kurt

Rating 1.5 out of 5

Perfect Days is a perfect example of a festival darling. After coming off a Best Actor win at the Cannes Film Festival and competing for the Palm d'Or in May of last year, it then went on to become a talk of the town back in September during the Toronto International Film Festival. I remember hearing about it from friends and critics alike and being intrigued by its simplicity and its Director Wim Wenders.

A few months have passed since, and now as the film enters a North American theatrical run AND has received a nomination for Best International Feature Film at this years Academy Awards, it once again has gotten a lot of attention.... but from whom? Because outside of the critical circle is has established itself in, this film will not have many fans.

Wenders is a man of few 'known' films, although Perfect Days is his 24th feature film. Two films really stick out heavily from his filmography - Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire - as they have become pieces of criterion cinema culture that us cinephiles seem to drift towards on a semi-regular basis. By the way, the latter of those two I think is a damn masterpiece. 54 years into his career, it is applause worthy that the 78 year old filmmaker is still making a splash in cinema.

Perfect Days revolves around Hirayama. A kind, mild mannered public restroom cleaner in Tokyo who lives a very simple and reserved life. Some might even look at it as mundane, but to Hirayama, it is a life filled with much joy, contentment and structure. We see that structure, as the majority of the film is his daily in and outs that all revolve around work tasks and then after work habits, which include listening to music and watching baseball. He is clearly a man of solitude and simplicity.

God bless this movie for trying but Wender's Perfect Days is not for me. I am not even sure I understand what audience this was made for as nothing is special about the film.

This feels like a film that was made to be played in International Film Studies classes for years to come, so professors have the ability to say

'Here kids... it is possible for someone to not speak a language and still make an entire film using such language!' (INSERT APPLAUSE) Or on the flip side of that, give a shining example to the students of how to create a slow, 'well paced' 21st century character study ...... that may put you to sleep..... (INSERT MORE APPLAUSE) I don't know folks. I don't write curriculums.

The cinematography feels subpar compared to the other Best International Feature nominees at this years Oscars. It does nothing to showcase the beauty of Tokyo during the day or night, and the few shots with 'artistic' flare we do get, panders because it just needs something out of boredom.

Having seen Zone of Interest, which too can also be slow at times, at least gives us the viewer something more to digest as the film goes on. Now comparing being a film about being neighbors to a concentration camp to a film about a lowly janitor might be a stretch but assure you, there is a reason this will not win that particular award at this years Academy Awards. Its lack of gravitas and ability to captive a regular film going audience just won't check boxes.

Perfect Days sole purpose is to remind us that the little things in life are to be cherished and to recognize the beauty in the simple things. Sadly, watching a man wiping shit off of public toilets for two hours doesn't exactly illicit that response for me - nor does reminiscing about the audio quality of cassettes - which I can assure you sounded almost as bad as the shit Hirayama was cleaning in this movie. Cassette weren't cool guys, end of discussion.

My dopamine levels hit an all-time low watching this film, cementing my wife's belief that I need stimulus from morning to evening in order to be entertained or, for that matter, engaged. And I'm okay with that.

Cheers to toilet maintenance and everything in between!

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