Between past, present and tributes to the master Ozu, Wim Wenders talks about the genesis of his Japanese film that enchanted the press at Cannes 2023, Perfect Days.
And Wim Wenders mustachioed and relaxed accompanies his new effort, Perfect Dayscompared with the international press. The film, set in Tokyo and starring a Japanese cast, is one of the latest titles in the competition Cannes 2023 which ends tomorrow. The seraphic air of the German director does not betray emotion, after all Wenders is a veteran of the Croisette. Perfect Days it is the thirteenth film he presents at Cannes. But why travel to the other side of the world to shoot a film?
“Perfect Days was born from my co-writer Takuma Tagasaki’s invitation to visit the Tokyo baths. Due to the health emergency, the Olympics were postponed and seeing the baths in this situation was a unique opportunity. Takuma offered me to photograph them or shoot a short film. I didn’t get told twice and I left, but after the visit I understood that the best way to describe that place was a fictional film. ‘Perfect Days’ is not about the bathrooms, but it captures that sense of awakening that Japan has experienced after the pandemic, that sense of the common good. I wanted to tell this moment and of course tell a story”.
A Zen film shot in a hurry with a look at the documentary
Protagonist of Perfect Daysinterpreted by Koji Yakushois Hirayama, a 50-year-old who leads a simple life cleaning toilets in Tokyo. In his spare time he cultivates his passions, digital photographs of trees, music (the film has an outstanding soundtrack) and reading, especially William Faulkner and Patricia Highsmith. “Hirayama is based on Koji Yakusho, one of my most respected actors and one of my favorite people” explains Wenders. “It is a character who shines with humility and simplicity. And I love the choice of books he reads in the film, in which Takuma has a hand”. The director admits that “Making fiction films in another country is scary, it’s happened to me before and the reviews haven’t always been good. This time I wanted to be sure you didn’t feel the imprint of a foreigner, so I involved Takuma. I trusted him for choosing the cast, since I don’t speak Japanese and since we had little time”.
Perfect Days it is a film written and shot “In a hurry”, as Wenders explains. He and Takuma exchanged ideas via email, then the Japanese author traveled to Berlin and they wrote the story together in two weeks. “In October I went to Japan to shoot. We only had three weeks of time, as I had to go back to another set”. Thus, despite having written everything down, Wim Wenders chose to be inspired by the environment by adhering to an almost documentary filming logic: “The characters are fictional, but what surrounds them is real. The rituals we witnessed every day, the sounds, everything flows freely. On the set we rehearsed very little and used body language to understand each other. We didn’t want to waste unnecessary time “.
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In the wake of Yasujirō Ozu
The reflective and spiritual nature of Perfect Days brings to mind Wim Wenders’ masterpiece, The Sky Over Berlin. When asked about the possibility of returning to revisit that story, the director explains: “It’s not in the stars. I’ve already done a sequel to ‘The sky above Berlin’ (‘So far so close’, ed) and I don’t think I’ll go back to revisit my angels, but Hirayama is an angel too. No one could see the my angels and here too people who enter the bathroom do not see it. This is a very spiritual film, I tackle the same territory”. As for the outstanding soundtrack, which contains some of the director’s favorite tracks, Wenders reveals that “many songs are in the script”: “At first I was hesitant to put all these songs that I love into the story, but Takuma encouraged me. Japanese people love rock too, we imagined the songs while writing and asked for the rights before we started shooting for avoid problems. Japanese songs, on the other hand, I discovered during work”.
The influences in cinema by Wim Wenders they are well known. The director has never hidden his love for cinema Yasujirō Ozu. In Cannes, he even wears a T-shirt dedicated to the Japanese artist. “Making a film in Tokyo without thinking about Ozu is impossible” admits: “I consider him my spiritual teacher, even if in the films I try to avoid too explicit references. Especially the female characters of Perfect Days are close to the modern and strong women of Ozu’s films. But we had to find our own style, Ozu would never have used the hand-held camera, while I shot almost entirely with the hand-held camera. The choice of the 4:3 format is a tribute to him because it recalls the films of the past. For me, shooting in Tokyo sixty years after Ozu was a privilege . In his films he observed the development of Japanese society in a precise way. Our goal was to continue the discussion by showing what Tokyo is like today, 60 years later”.