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Discovering Serenity: A Review of “Perfect Days”

Photo of Arisa Nakano and Kōji Yakisho in a scene from the movie “Perfect Days.”

Finding inner peace and contentment amidst heartbreak can be a formidable challenge.

In the midst of a recent personal tragedy, I have encountered profound difficulty in coping with the emotional turmoil. It is during such trying times that I seek solace in the realm of cinema. One particular film that resonated deeply with my wounded heart is Wim Wenders’ latest masterpiece, “Perfect Days,” which made its debut in the competitive arena of the Cannes Film Festival last year. The film earned Kōji Yakusho the prestigious Best Actor award for his stellar performance as the protagonist. I had the privilege of attending a screening of “Perfect Days” at the Bud Frank Cinema, an experience that proved to be a much-needed balm for my soul.

The narrative of “Perfect Days” revolves around Hirayama, a reserved individual employed as a janitor at The Tokyo Toilet. Despite the mundane nature of his job, Hirayama finds contentment in the simple pleasures of life, often immersing himself in music from audio cassettes during his daily commute.

Kōji Yakusho delivers an exceptional portrayal of Hirayama, relying on subtlety and nuanced facial expressions to bring this character to life. His performance, marked by moments of profound tranquility, resonates deeply with the audience and is truly deserving of the accolades received at Cannes.

Accompanying Hirayama in his daily routine is his youthful colleague, Takashi (played by Tokio Emoto), whose outgoing nature contrasts sharply with Hirayama’s reserved demeanor.

In his first narrative endeavor in six years, Wim Wenders has crafted a cinematic gem that stands out as one of the highlights of his illustrious career. Known for his contributions to the New German Cinema movement, Wenders’ filmography includes acclaimed works such as “Paris, Texas,” “The American Friend,” and “Until the End of the World.” “Perfect Days” emerges as a poetic exploration of inner peace and the beauty found in life’s routines. Drawing stylistic parallels to his earlier work, such as the 1987 fantasy drama “Wings of Desire,” Wenders skillfully captures moments of serenity, including scenes where Hirayama captures the essence of nature through his photography.

A notable intertextual reference in the film occurs when Hirayama purchases a novel by Patricia Highsmith, known for her work “Ripley’s Game,” which Wenders previously adapted into “The American Friend.”

The film’s exceptional soundtrack, featuring tracks from artists like Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Can, adds another layer of depth to the viewing experience. Iconic songs like The Animals’ rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun” and Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” enhance key moments in the narrative, evoking a range of emotions.

Cinematographer Franz Lustig’s visual compositions, captured in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, showcase the beauty of Tokyo’s Shibuya district and Hirayama’s surroundings, creating an intimate atmosphere that complements the film’s narrative.

“Perfect Days” offers a poignant glimpse into a man’s journey towards contentment and peace. With its heartfelt storytelling, captivating performances, and exquisite cinematography, Wim Wenders’ film provides a touching and uplifting cinematic experience.

For those seeking to immerse themselves in the tranquility of “Perfect Days,” the film is available for rental on platforms like Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Apple TV.