Features Live Action Movies

Perfect Days

Director – Wim Wenders – 2023 – Germany, Japan – Cert. PG – 123m


A cleaner for The Tokyo Toilet Company takes great pleasure in his everyday routine – on MUBI from Friday, April 12th

There is a pecking order in society. Right at the lowest level is anything to do with human waste. Nowhere is this more evident than towards the end of this film when his sister, who drives a large, impressive looking car and is making a rare visit to her sibling, asks, incredulously, “are you really cleaning toilets?”

In this remarkable film, Wenders turns this notion on its head. Welcome to the world of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho), employee of The Tokyo Toilet Company, who has been doing the job for five or six years and takes great pride in it. He is part of a two-person detail, however his young co-worker Takashi (Tokio Emoto) doesn’t share his enthusiasm, often arriving late for his shift and looking at his mobile phone on the job.

Hirayama drives a small van and has invested in various tools to help him carry out the job; Takashi rides a motor scooter. Hirayama takes great pleasure in his audio cassette collection (The Animals, Lou Reed, Patti Smith) which he listens to on his van’s cassette player driving to and from work. When Takashi’s scooter breaks down on the evening that he plans to take girlfriend Aya (Aoi Yamada) for a drink, Takashi begs Hirayama to let him borrow the van.

As requests go, this is clearly a non-starter; nevertheless, Hirayama drives co-worker and girlfriend to their destination. Both are impressed by the old school music technology, audio cassettes having long since ceased to be common currency. “Can I download it to my iPhone?” he is asked on a later occasion by his neice. Aya pays him arguably the ultimate compliment: she nicks his cassette of Patti Smith / Horses (only to return it later).

And Takashi, who has various reasons for wanting quick and easy money, takes Hirayama to a second-hand cassette shop to find out how much his collection is worth. (Answer: quite a lot: but Hirayama loves his music and has no intention of selling).

The remainder of Hirayama’s time is spent on a number of other pursuits.

He shoots black and white still photos of trees, mostly in the park where he has lunch, with an old 35mm camera. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a (homeless?) man (Min Tanaka) adopting strange poses in the park. He knows a shop that still processes these: the snaps that Hirayama doesn’t rip up as not worth keeping, he files away in a series of metal boxes in his modest flat.

He hangs out in a small bar presided over by a mama (Sayuri Ishikawa).

A further plot has Hirayama’s niece Niko (Arisa Nakano) turn up after running away from her mum to spend a few days with her very different uncle.

Thus, Hirayama’s everyday life is filled with simple, everyday pleasures, and Wenders – who has a masterful understanding of how to set things up with a movie camera and just let them play out so as to capture such magic moments – realises these so well here that you want to rush out of the cinema and take Hirayama’s job and lifestyle for yourself.

Perfect Days is on MUBI from Friday, April 12th following its release in UK cinemas from Friday, February 9th and its screening in the 2023 London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF).


International Trailer:

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