Perfect Days, Wenders’ poetry of the everyday

Perfect Days © MASTER MIND Ltd

Winner of the Palme d’or for Paris, Texas in 1984, the Best Director Award in 1987 for The Wings of Desire, and the Jury Grand Prix in 1993 for Faraway, So Close!,, Wim Wenders was back in the Cannes Competition for the tenth time in 2023 with Perfect Days , the story of a Tokyo public toilet cleaner, and Koji Yakusho won the Best Actor award for his role as Hyrayama. Perfect Days, which represents Japan in the race for the 2024 Oscars, opens in French cinemas on November 29.

The film takes place in Tokyo, years after filming Tokyo-Ga (1985): why Tokyo and were you also inspired by Yasujiro Ozu in Perfect Days ?

The idea was born in Tokyo and could not have been made anywhere else. I love it if a story and its setting belong together out of necessity. We shot Perfect Days 60 years after Ozu made his last film, An Autumn Afternoon, in Tokyo. And it is not a coincidence that our hero’s name is Hirayama…

What inspired you to chose the subject of the movie?

On one hand, the strong feeling of “service” and “the common good” in Japan, on the other hand, the sheer architectural beauty of these public sanitary places. I was amazed at how much “toilets” can be part of everyday culture, not just an almost embarrassing necessity.

Do you consider it one of your most poetic films?

“Poetry” is not something you can intend in a film, but it’s rather a beautiful find, a gift that you receive as a filmmaker, from your actors, from places, from the light, from everything that has to come together to form something like “poetry in motion”.

A word about the actors?

Working with Koji Yakusho as Hirayama was a unique experience. We could only talk via an interpreter, but between Hirayama, my cinematographer Franz, and me, we soon found a silent body language, with sometimes just the slightest indication of an adjustment needed. It was really a dream come true to work with someone so totally committed to his character and so totally open to shooting as fast as we did, sometimes without much of a rehearsal. The entire cast was amazing. Even in the small parts, we had actors of the highest regard in Japan.