(Cannes) Having distinguished himself mainly through his feature documentaries over the past two decades, Wim Wenders is back in competition with Perfect Days. This very beautiful minimalist film shot in Tokyo, in which the German filmmaker tries to capture what makes the specificity of the Japanese people, greatly appealed to festival-goers.

He is one of the leading filmmakers of world cinema. We also owe Wim Wenders two of the greatest feature films of the 1980s: Paris, Texas, Palme d’Or in 1984, and The Wings of Desire, prize for directing on the Croisette three years later. Although his most recent fiction films have not had the same impact, the German filmmaker has stayed the course over the years thanks, in particular, to his documentary works.

Pina, on the choreographer Pina Bausch, made an impression, as did Le sel de la terre. This work dedicated to the photographer Sebastião Salgado won the Un certain regard prize at Cannes in 2014. Even if Perfect Days is a fiction, we can nevertheless establish a link with Tokyo-Ga, a documentary made in 1985, in which Wim Wenders was looking for places in Tokyo that he saw in the films of Yasujirō Ozu, the declared master to whom he dedicates his new offering.

Almost 40 years later, the filmmaker has returned to Japan, a country he loves, thanks to a project he was offered: to make a series of short fiction films in the spirit of total artistic freedom. , linked by the theme of a social project. Wim Wenders, however, preferred to devote himself to a feature film with the subject of public toilets in Tokyo. The filmmaker, who wrote his screenplay with Takuma Takasaki, hoped to take an approach through which we could understand the essence of Japanese culture, with public toilets playing an entirely different role there than they are. attributes in Western societies.

“There is on the one hand the acute sense of service and the common good, and on the other hand the architectural beauty of these public sanitary places, explained Wim Wenders during an interview relayed by the Festival. I was amazed at how much a toilet can be part of everyday culture, not just an almost embarrassing necessity. »

Perfect Days, an allusion to the title of a song by Lou Reed that the protagonist likes (Perfect Day), tells the story of a man, Hirayama (Kōji Yakusho), who we guess is at a turning point in his life. He now seems to want to be satisfied with a simple life by working in the maintenance of public toilets in Tokyo. Within a very structured daily routine, Hirayama has the opportunity to satisfy his passion for books and music. Listening in his car to old cassettes that could be very expensive with collectors, the man particularly appreciates pieces from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, those of Velvet Underground, Otis Redding, Patty Smith, the Kinks…

It emanates from Hirayama’s daily life surges of poetry arising from the gaze of a man who has chosen to live a life of simplicity and modesty. And who welcomes the people he meets with a great openness. Filming the city from an original angle by moving away from images seen a thousand times, Wenders offers here a feature film that is also very interesting from a visual point of view.

In a setting rich in atmospheres, Kōji Yakusho offers in this very beautiful work a performance that could well attract the attention of the jury. The filmmaker is in any case delighted with his experience of working with the actor.

“We could only talk through an interpreter, but between Hirayama, my cinematographer [Franz Lustig] and myself, we quickly found a quiet body language, which sometimes only required the slightest hints of adjustment. It was truly a dream to work with someone so totally committed to their character and so totally open to shooting as quickly as we did, sometimes without a lot of rehearsals. »

Not having been selected in the race for the Palme d’Or since Rendez-vous in Palermo in 2008, Wim Wenders is honored by a double selection at Cannes this year. In addition to Perfect Days, his ninth entry into the competition (his first selection dates back to Au fil du temps in 1976), Wim Wenders presented earlier in this festival, in a special screening, Anselm, a documentary he devoted to the artist Anselm Kiefer.