Wim Wenders had such a fantastic start to his career, going from strength to strength and culminating with his Palme d'Or winning Paris, Texas in 1984, closely followed by that other masterpiece of his Wings of Desire in 1987, winner of the best directing prize. So it is fair to say what followed from the '90s onwards has been a bit of a disappointment. There were the flawed but compelling Until The End of the World and Faraway, So Close! but his work later in the decade and in the '00s betrayed a serious lack of inspiration. He is back in competition this year with Perfect Days, while his documentary Anselm was shown a few days ago out of competition.Perfect Days follows the daily work routine of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho), an elderly toilet cleaner in Tokyo and feels quintessential Wim Wenders, with his trademark themes of big cities, the yearn to communicate and loneliness.
There is a certain dryness to the first hour of the film as the details of Hirasyama's repetitive tasks are meticulously represented, with the German director wanting to convey the dreariness of it all but it does make for a challenging half to go through, filmed flatly and with very little to distract from this necessary but excruciatingly boring job.
However as the film unfolds Wim Wenders's usual urban poetry quietly shines through. While Hirayama leads a solitary and introspective life, it is not without its pleasures where he can finds them. Attentive to the bustling life around him, he strikes a conversation with random people when he can and listen to them with an attentive smile, takes some pride in his work no matter how menial and takes some pictures of trees.
It takes all the vast talent of Koji Yakusho to make it all work, with an extraordinary final scene in which he is overwhelmed by a wide range of emotions (and he has instantly become the top contender for best actor) and there some fleeting moments of poetry but it all feels too slight to fully hit the mark and while a welcome return to form of sorts, Perfect Days still lacks the inspiration of Wim Wenders's best films.
Review by Laurent de Alberti
Star rating: ★★★☆☆
Official Selection, in Competition
Perfect Days. Directed by Wim Wenders. Starring Kofi Yakusho...