In a world full of exhibitionism and useless exaltation of anything, Wim Wenders decides to focus on simplicity. For «Perfect Days», in cinemas from today, January 4, with Lucky Red, he has chosen a protagonist who is committed to his work every day, who almost doesn’t speak, and who manages to find time not only for himself – he goes every evening to the public toilets, to have a drink, to eat out; he has friends to spend time with and laugh about – but also because of his passions: he takes care of his plants with extreme care, and prunes them, cuts them, looks after them. He spies on them as soon as he can, and he smiles like a father who sees his children play and grow: he is happy about it; moreover, he is proud of it. And then he listens to music, takes photographs and reads books. He has his own routine – this is a key word for «Perfect Days» – and his own way of living, rather than of doing things.
It all begins and ends with the face of Kôji Yakusho, who plays the protagonist, Hirayama. He begins with his thin moustache, with his high and almost always frowning forehead, with his perfectly combed hair, tinged with gray at the temples; it begins with his silent expressions, with the meticulousness with which he opens and closes the door of his van, chooses the cassettes to listen to and inserts them into the mouth of the car stereo. It begins with the tilt of his head with which he keeps the rhythm of the songs, with his lips that part and let out just a breath and with his fingers that from time to time, almost timidly, tap on his steering wheel. And it ends with wrinkles that cut his face, with melancholy that fills his cheekbones and cheeks, with his eyes that become bright or red depending on the moment.
His performance as an actor is exceptional. Because he uses everything he has to live in the moment, to give the viewer as complex and precise a perception of truth and realism as possible. Wim Wenders does not move, like Aki Kaurismäki, on a sparse and therefore refined minimalism. Wim Wenders wants to restore the depth of the everyday life of a man, of a cleaner, and he does it wonderfully. Starting with the bathrooms that he has to wash and keep tidy: they are beautiful, bright, almost futuristic in their tall, square and very particular architecture.
An entire universe of characters moves around Hirayama, but they all, in some way, come and go, always leaving him alone. Well, Perfect Days also talks about this: about loneliness. And he tries neither to glorify it nor to trivialize it. He represents it in its totality, with the ups and downs, with the confusion of silences and the surprise of a glimpse of light and grassy branches discovered by chance during a lunch break. In nearly two hours, not much seems to happen. And yet anything happens. Because Hirayama changes, always remaining himself. He transforms, without abandoning his habits. He comes to terms with modernity without saying goodbye to his cassette tapes and the camera with the film that he keeps in the pocket of his suit.
By setting his new film in Japan, Wenders was able to find a balance with his directorial vision and an excessive realism that almost goes against the grain of what is often said about Tokyo and the people who live there. His is not a compromise. It is, on the contrary, a secular prayer for normality. We have mistakenly convinced ourselves that exceptionality is the answer to boredom; and in reality, it is precisely boredom, with its shadows and distortions, with its long dead moments, that can be a resource.
In our small way, in our world, we are all unique and special. We have passions, obsessions, superstitious gestures. We have our own idea of how to do things and, above all, how to live with ourselves. The world and everything it brings with it come in a second instant: they come when we have finally recognized and rediscovered ourselves. In critical simplification, «Perfect Days» is a stupendous film, a masterpiece; However, wanting to try to go beyond the labels and limits of definitions, «Perfect Days» is almost a treatise in images of our ability to surprise ourselves and our curiosity, of that boy – or girl – who lives inside us and who never goes , never away: just waiting to be set free once again. «Perfect Days» must be seen in a room, on the big screen, because only in this way can it envelop us with its colors, its light and its music. It’s like a playlist of frames and it is – fortunately – a glimmer of simplicity in the midst of so much, so much egocentrism.
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