Perfect Days: The Toilet Film

Perfect Days

Sometimes, the best filmmaking comes from the most unlikely of places.

When I was 15 years old, my summer job was in my hometown’s sports complex, helping the janitor. He was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. Always smiling, he will clean up the floor and the toilets with pride in his contributions to society. He would joke around and enjoy his perfect days. 

That’s what this film reminded me about. A simple man with a simple wage job that many people would consider the bottom of the barrel. But he was happy. He would look at the sky and start his day. Played by Koji Yakusho (Cure, Babel), Hirayama is a simple man with a simple life. He plays some sick rock and roll on cassette tapes on his way to clean toilets, has lunch at the park and photographs trees, goes to an old bathhouse, and eats dinner in the same place. He would look at the sky, take a deep breath, and start his day.

The gift of Wim Wenders and Koji Yakusho together.

The poetic genius of Wim Wenders, one of the auteurs of the New German Cinema movement, is truly remarkable. A filmmaker that takes his time to tell you a story. Similarly to Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, we witness the main character going through his structured days until they get interrupted by unexpected encounters and interruptions. Disrupting the character’s perfect day reveals his nuances and quirks.

Although the film doesn’t fully reveal the reasons, those unexpected encounters hint that Hirayami is a broken man. Koji Yakusho does a great job performing both the subtle flickers of frustration and the inconsolable tears or impulse to buy alcohol and cigarettes. He needs to grow roots like the trees he photographs. And have a foundation like the Skytree in sight throughout the entire film. That’s his safe place, the one he needs to be without bathing at home, going to another bookstore, or listening to Lou Reed on Spotify. 

Why Toilets

Property of Bitters End.

There’s a story behind the lavatories we see in this film. The modern design and pristine look of the toilets started as an initiative in 2018 by The Nippon Foundation. The Tokyo Toilet (TTT) project invited 16 architects and creators to renovate the public restrooms. So it turns out one of the most touching and visually stunning films of the past few years is a Tokyo toilet tour. For me, this is art! 

What could’ve been a simple movie with the excuse to show fancy toilets, Wim Wenders, created into a film that reminded me of one of the happiest people I’ve ever met and reminded me that life is good. So yeah, this movie is a public restroom propaganda turned into a legit Japanese film that would make Yasujirō Ozu proud. And it’s as close to perfection as it can be. 

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