The Cannes Film Festival competition enters the home stretch with Catherine Breillat’s Last Summer and Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days.
Festival de Cannes 2023 : the competition enters the home straight with Catherine Breillat‘s Last Summer, another film about a relationship between an adult woman and a teenage boy. At the 76th Cannes Film Festival, renowned German director Wim Wenders presented Anselm, a documentary about Anselm Kiefer, and Perfect Days, his latest feature film.
The ecstasy of Last Summer
After Todd Haynes’ May December, here is a sultry French version of a relationship in which a woman falls in love with a teenager, her 17-year-old stepson. Last Summer is the remake, starring Léa Drucker and Samuel Kirscher of Dronnigen (2019), the Danish feature film by May el-Toukhy. What fascinated the director about this film was the incandescent beauty of adolescence that permeates the story. “I wanted to move from the carnal order to the amorous order and film ecstasy rather than pleasure”, she declares, in addition to tackling all the themes that are dear to her, such as lies and moralism, in this story of a renowned lawyer in her fifties who jeopardises her career and threatens to break up her family by luring her young stepson into her net.
Perfect Days, perfect documentary ?
Wim Wenders has won many honours at Cannes: Palme d’Or for Paris, Texas, Grand Prix du Jury for Fareway, so close!, Prix de la mise en scène for Wings of Desire, Prix de la critique internationale for Kings of the Road... And he was President of the Jury in 1989. This year, the prolific director presented a documentary in the Special Screening, Anselm, dedicated to the work of contemporary German visual artist Anselm Kiefer, and his sixth film in Competition, Perfect Days. And Perfect Days starts out looking like a documentary… A documentary about working-class Japan in Tokyo through the life of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho), a public toilet cleaner, or to use the fashionable Novlangue: a sanitising surface technician. And he does it with zeal and technical skill, with a smile to boot, in the superb toilets designed by contemporary designers.
Conveying emotions without dialogue
Hirayama wakes up, sighs, folds his futon, brushes his teeth, trims his moustache, shaves, opens the door looking up at the sky with a smug look on his face, picks up a canned coffee from the vending machine downstairs, gets in his car and goes about his laborious daily routine of polishing the earthenware of a technological public toilet to the sound of a cassette (yes, the good old one, rewound with a pencil) of American pop. In the evening, he showers, has a drink, reads, falls asleep and dreams in black and white. Of trees, for trees are his friends, whom he photographs from the same park bench, day after day. And so on, day after day. Fixed shots, minimalist acting by the ‘hero’ and the (few) other actors, succinct dialogue, everything is about facial expression. And that becomes fascinating. What is going to happen in the life of this hero who is sad inside but smiles at his monotonous daily routine? The past suddenly resurfaces…
Totally committed to his character
“You keep me hangin’ on”, sang Lou Reed in Perfect Day (Transformer – 1972). In his Perfect Days, Wim Wenders also makes us yearn for and cling to his character in search of everyday beauty to admire and photograph who, in silent body language, expresses his passions for plants, music, books and his melancholy. The great Koji Yakusho is totally committed to his character as a mute cleaner, serving the community in his The Tokyo Toilet uniform, carrying his spray bottle on his hip like a germ-killing cowboy, and quietly enjoying his leisure time as a spectator. Through small variations in the routine, Wim Wenders loosens the solitude that imprisons the character and gives him his full poetic dimension.
The Red Carpet of Perfect Days in pictures
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