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‘Perfect Days’ Review: Wim Wenders’ Gentle Japanese Character Study is His Best Narrative Film in Decades

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Guy Lodge Film Critic Before you ask, yes, Lou Reed’s rock standard “Perfect Day” does indeed make an appearance in Wim Wenders’ “Perfect Days”: on the protagonist’s stereo as suitably ideal sunlight pours into his small, neat Tokyo apartment, before swarming the soundtrack as we head out into the city on a calm weekend afternoon.

If that sounds a little obvious, basic even, said protagonist Hirayama — a mellow, soft-spoken toilet cleaner beautifully played by Kōji Yakusho — would probably agree with a shrug.

He’s into simple pleasures, not deep cuts. His solitary life is built around the things that make him happy and the work that keeps him solvent.

He’s not inclined to wonder what other people make of it. Wenders’ film, in turn, is sincere and unassuming, and owns its sentimentality with good humor. “Perfect Days” finds its maker in bracing, uncomplicated form: It hasn’t the ecstatic spiritualist philosophy of “Wings of Desire” or the penetrating poetry of human and cultural desolation that marked “Paris, Texas.” But the new film’s humane, hopeful embrace of everyday blessings is enough to make it Wenders’ freshest, most rewarding and arthouse-friendly fiction feature in close on 30 years — following a 21st-century run of dusty or disheveled works dwarfed by the artistry and elan of his recent documentary work.

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