Friday new releases: 26 January 2023
Perfect Days, The Color Purple and The Iron Claw are in cinemas
Back in 2018 we had a family holiday in Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka. I know two weeks is never enough to know a place, but it was certainly more than enough to fall in love with it. Well, that and all that Japanese cinema we watch.
Wim Wenders’ new film Perfect Days is set in Tokyo, and it was a startlingly familiar Tokyo to the one we experienced, to the extent we got quite emotional.
Kôji Yakusho is Hirayama, a middle-aged man living in a modest flat in central Tokyo – there’s a view of the famous Sky Tree tower when he steps out into the street. Every morning before dawn he is woken by the sound of a neighbour sweeping up leaves. He cleans his teeth, puts on his overalls, buys a can of coffee from the vending machine and sets off for work in his little blue van.
He cleans public toilets for a living – all over Tokyo. Almost the first thing you notice is that these facilities are wonderful compared with what we are used to here. All different, all architecturally thoughtful and technologically advanced. Citizens should be proud of having such high standards for convenience and Hirayama takes great pride in his work supporting them.
When we were in Japan, we saw how you could imagine that there are no ‘shit’ jobs. Even the guy who opens and closes the gate to the hotel car park wears white gloves. Every job contributes to the smooth running of society which means that everyone benefits from that work.
Not everyone agrees, though. Hirayama has a young co-worker (Tokio Emoto) whose work ethic is not as pronounced but, despite his unreliability, even he has some surprises to offer.