Perfect days

Perfect Days Frame/ Disclosure


Commentary on the film by Wim Wenders

Still under the effects of Wim Wenders' beautiful film, impressions unfold, associations occur. The paradox that presents itself at the exit. The life of Harayama, the cleaner of Tokyo's public bathrooms, a repetitive life, constant work cleaning up leftovers, rubbish and disgust (ours, not his) in cleaning other people's bathrooms all the time, just the public bathroom that in More often than not, it's a tossed place, stuff on the floor, leftovers from hangovers and lack of paper, wetness in front of the toilets, blockages, and everything else.

At the same time, the experience of living, of poetry, of the lyric in gestures, in expressions, in song since The house of the rising sun even the warmth of Nina Simone's voice in feeling good. Touching the beauty of life, making this recognition, even if fleeting. It is the paradoxical that makes the enigma and the arrival to the spectator: something is transmitted from the creative act when we are in front of art. Art in life.

When leaving the film, there was a certain joy mixed with an inexplicable relief. Where does the relief come from, I thought... I think the main thing comes from this feeling of touching something of the experience of living in its grandeur, without this encounter needing the imperative of an extraordinary agenda. Not the great feats, the wonderful trips, the pleasure of the incredible consumer objects of our world. There is a way to access these threshold moments through the simple implication and recognition of what constitutes us, speaks to us, moves us.

Harayama lives a daily ritual that Wim Wenders takes us through. Wake up, fold the bed, (lovingly) water your plants, brush your teeth vigorously, go downstairs, get a coffee from the machine, get in the truck. His small house opens onto a garage patio, in the first scene everything seems a bit ugly, a precarious appearance...

Another gesture that opens the day (after watering the plants): the choice of the cassette tape (!) that will play along the way, and then yes, we have news of something still diffuse but that comes through the music and the camera glued to the face of Harayama, who makes this simple journey like crossing a portal. It is between night and sunrise, it is a threshold zone that concentrates an incomparable intensity, the mystery of “being there”. There is a house in New Orleans, they call the rising sun, And it's been the ruin of many poor boys, And God, I know I'm one...

And the meeting with Tokyo begins. The city, a theme dear to Wim Wenders in his films. Lisbon story is my favorite, where the filmmaker character arrives in Portugal to look for his missing friend in Lisbon. What clues should you follow to find your partner? He does this using the sounds of the city, audio that recorded the noise of the streets, the water, the voices, through the mud and corners of Lisbon – tapes that his friend recorded of these sounds of the city for the film they were about to make together . A kind of recorded sound map, left in the abandoned room and which ends up being the material that now guides the newcomer's “journey” through Lisbon, to guide his own discovery, the itinerary of his search, the search for his friend (and yes, on this trajectory).

Now it is the city of Tokyo from what appears to be the highways that pass outside, above the streets, that accompany the large crossings of the train lines, or that go down to the common street like in any other place, were it not for the writings, signs, neon lights, outdoors that mark for us an absolutely different writing, without a trace of familiarity exerting the fascination of the foreign…

We follow our tokyo man for the stops in different bathrooms in squares, for cleaning and brushing the vases like someone who really cares, in the corners, on the embedded wires, when brushing is not the discomfort, it is his task, and which he carries out and takes care of perfectly.

The music on his cassettes – always on his journeys through Tokyo – also conveys, at times, a melancholic tone in his songs. Sometimes I feel so happy, some times I feel so sad, but mostly you make me mad…

Harayama is a loner, but that doesn't mean living without each other. The scenes point out, he helps the little boy who was left alone locked in the bathroom, who he gives his hand and takes him to his mother. The young work partner who desperately needs help getting a girlfriend. The niece who arrives by surprise to stay with him due to a fight with her mother (her uncle welcomes her home, gives up his room and is squeezed between the closet and the washing machine in the cleaning room). And, once the surprise of her arrival is over, everything is fine, he loves the meeting, and she accompanies him on that next day's pilgrimage to the bathrooms, helping, keeping company, witnessing something about her life.

The niece, in a way, bridges the gap between the two worlds, the family world and this one.“the Tokyo toilet”man, title written on his work overalls. He hasn't seen his sister in years. We see that there is a history of rupture there, which remains without further clarification, but it is almost evident. When the mother comes to pick up her daughter, Harayama, in a gesture of surprise, gives her sister a hug, and she leaves in the luxurious car, a contrast to the place, the street and her brother's life.

Silent encounter with the presence of the other – him having a snack and the girl on the bench next to him, a few meters away. If they look, it's an embarrassment but also a curiosity, a record of being there, side by side. Captured by the movement of the treetops, the sky that makes up the scene, the wind and its murmurs, he photographs, each time. Digital camera, black and white photo, and the pleasure of this act. Also, harvest a plant sprout to take and carefully plant at home. One more to water and watch it grow.

A set of scenes marks this “encounter with another” in a special way through the game of tic-tac-toe. During one of his cleanings, he found a folded piece of paper between the crack in the marble of the sink and the wall, the “hashtag” of a started tic-tac-toe game. He then makes his move, writes the x in another space (what was already drawn was the circle in the middle), and replaces the paper in the same place. The next day he already finds the written movement of the other (new circle in one of the angles). They're playing together! And so they share the pleasure of the game without knowing each other, but with breaks and anxiously waiting for the sequence of whoever has a partner in the game.

At night, dreams also collect the remains: paths and paths of the streets passing quickly and blurred by the gaze, the adult's hand holding the child's hand, the shadow, the leaves of the trees swaying.

Harayama reads William Faulkner every night, the two or three pages he gets through before the book falls out of his hand due to exhaustion. Dollar books from the second-hand bookstore she frequents. Wild palm trees, the book. I imagined it was his love for nature, something like that, he was always attentive to the leaves, the trees, the plants... I put the book down kindle and I am surprised by the narrative that is nothing bucolic, New Orleans, the difficult plot of a couple, the story of convicts, a disturbed world.

Still perfect days takes us on journeys outside the home, the very strange (for us) space of shared baths in Tokyo where he goes (the bath is not at home); the restaurant he frequents, which is a bar at the subway station (but where he finds hospitality). And, on some nights, the little restaurant where he falls in love with a woman who serves, perhaps the owner, and who sings divinely.

I remember here, by Giorgio Agamben, “The adventure”. In the sense that adventure has, in the Middle Ages, a relationship with the everyday experience (of the knight/poet), and not with something extraordinary. Your journey, what happens along the way, and how to deal with it. Then narrate. The event is inseparable from its narrative. It is very recent in history, with the entry into modernity, that adventure has been pushed into a niche of the superlative, the extraordinary. The composition of the experience: not what is in the experience of a parade of events, but, what matters – what we do with these experiences. Composition of experience, remembering Walter Benjamin here.

In our film, it is worth considering the amount of narrator in the figure of the director, Wim Wenders and his choices. We have – and this is also unusual – nothing of Harayama’s inner experience, nothing of his internal dialogue, his thoughts. It is the subtlety of gestures, a slight nuance of smile, concern, perplexity, anguish, relief or satisfaction… Of dreams, also brief, discreet, of a few touches. And the special highlight is the soft joy that appears on your face every time you open the door to the day ahead.

I rewatched Wim Wenders' 1973 documentary, tokyo ga. Wonderful record of Wenders' love for the city of Tokyo, another Tokyo already marked by distance in time, and by everything that has changed. Tokyo in the seventies, where he wants to highlight the cinema of who he names as his master, his great reference: filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu. Ozu's style also focuses heavily on common everyday life, on the small detail that navigates in the midst of repetition.

Perfect days, and this is really surprising, it was a film commissioned from Wim Wenders by the city of Tokyo, with the interest of revitalizing a certain appreciation of the work and spaces of the city's public bathrooms. It's not that he chose the public bathroom cleaner to metaphorize something fundamental or crucial in our existence, like what could be, who knows, our trash, our remains and the contemporary world, for example. But what he invents with this is a magic of creation, twisting the order, creating art and yes, ending up touching something crucial in our existence.

And Nina Simone sings to Harayama and to us, at the end, once again entering Tokyo at dawn:

Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin' on by, you know how I feel
It's a knew dawn, it'a new day
It's a new life for me, ooh
And I'm feeling good

*Lucia Serrano Pereira She is a psychoanalyst and has a PhD in literature from UFRGS. Author, among other books, of An uncertain narrator, between the strange and the familiar: Machado's fiction in psychoanalysis (Freud Company).

Originally published in the newspaper South21.


Perfect days (Perfect Days).
Japan, 2023, 123 minutes.
Director: Wim Wenders.
Screenplay: Takuma Takasaki, Wim Wenders.
Director of Photography: Franz Lustig.
Cast: Kōji Yakusho, Min Tanaka, Arisa Nakano, Tokio Emoto.

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