‘Perfect Days’ celebrates beauty in everyday life


In a run-up to the Oscars, “Perfect Days” arrives at the M.V. Film Center on Friday, Feb. 23. The film was directed by Wim Wenders, who won an Oscar nomination for it, as did actor Koji Yakusho as the central character, Hirayama, and the film itself as the Japanese Oscar nomination.

“Perfect Days” tells the story of Hirayama, who works as a restroom cleaner in Tokyo. The architecturally unique and visually appealing toilets he cleans are part of the Tokyo Toilet Project.

The viewer first meets this solitary bachelor as he gets up in the morning, folds up his bedding, brushes his teeth, sprays the plants he nurtures, then puts on his Tokyo Toilet uniform. Looking up at the sky, he smiles, often smiling as he goes through the quotidian elements of his day.

After getting coffee from a machine, Hirayama slides into his van and drives to work, playing one of his many cassettes, this time “The House of the Rising Sun.” An American pop music junkie, he plays all of his cassettes with these songs, from Otis Redding to Nina Simone, and Wenders uses them to reference the ordinary aspects of his life.

Wender displays Hirayama going through his many daily activities, including his meticulous cleaning, listening to his younger colleague Takashi (Tokio Emoto), and his eating a sandwich in the park, nodding to a nearby young woman and enjoying the trees.

What is clear is that he savors these activities, as simple and repetitive as they are portrayed. These include washing himself at a public bathhouse, eating dinner at the same nightly counter, playing with his niece, and riding bikes with her.

When Takashi asks why he’s not married but seems lonely, Hirayama listens but doesn’t respond. Nor does he respond when his sister asks if he’s still cleaning toilets. The point is clear. He’s at peace with his routines, and enjoys them. He takes many photos of his cherished trees, and stores them in a cabinet not far from his collection of cassettes and extensive shelf of paperbacks that he reads after work. He dreams in a jumble of muted black and white.

In many ways, Wenders quietly celebrates the humble life of this simple man, repeating the activities from brushing his teeth to driving his van. Wenders illustrates the beauty we all need to appreciate in the ordinary world.

Information and tickets for “Perfect Days” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.