Film Review: Perfect Days

Food for Thought

“Paris, Texas” is one of my all-time favorite films. So, when I stumbled upon a poster for a Japanese movie directed by Wim Wenders, I was intrigued enough to consider watching it on the big screen.

It amazed me how Wenders, as a foreign director, managed to authentically capture so many facets that I perceived as distinctly Japanese. The secret to this authenticity remains a mystery to me; maybe it involved giving the actors freedom to improvise.

My perspective on American and Japanese cinema might be skewed because I rarely watch popular films. However, one striking difference is the Japanese aversion to neatly wrapped conclusions. Their films often leave the audience in a state of bewilderment—what I call “Lacanian ending” because the infamous psychoanalyst practiced “variable-length sessions” where he would suddenly end a session on confounding words. Wenders’ “Perfect Days” ends just like that.

In contrast, American audiences generally have a low tolerance for uncertainty. They prefer a cinematic experience that provides closure, answers all questions, and reassures them of the existence of universal truths.

Conversely, the Japanese embrace ambiguity. “Rashomon” by Akira Kurosawa, where a murder remains unresolved despite multiple witnesses, exemplifies this approach. My own inclination towards uncovering the truth was often met with criticism growing up.

“Perfect Days” is structurally quite unique. It has no real story; we only see hints of what could be beautiful stories. Wenders takes the concept of open-endedness to new heights, leaving all the narrative threads unfinished.

Wenders is a master of capturing moments of elusive beauty. “Perfect Days” is a collection of them, but it’s not merely an abstract piece—it provokes profound questions, echoing Lacan’s goal with his variable-length sessions. Those “Days” in the film weren’t perfect. The protagonist, Hirayama, is not a Zen monk able to transcend human suffering. He navigates his own trials and tribulations like any other. Yet, it is through these challenges that the beauty of life emerges. In this light, the film celebrates the imperfections of daily existence as the pinnacle of perfection.