Perfect Days ***
the Wim Wenders
German-Japanese film, 2 h 03
In theaters November 29
Last summer *
by Catherine Breillat
French film, 1 h 44
In theaters September 20
Almost forty years after his Palme d’or for Paris Texas, German filmmaker Wim Wenders is back in competition with these “Perfect Days”, inspired by Lou Reed’s song. It is however in Japan, and more particularly in Tokyo, that his film takes place. A long sound and visual poem, it forms a bewitching succession of days lived by a public toilet employee in the Japanese capital.
The director makes no secret of it, the film was originally commissioned by local institutions to promote these places of ease sublimated by renowned architects. But the magic of cinema and the talent of its author have made it a splendid metaphysical meditation on the beauty of the world and of the present moment.
Wim Wenders had already shot two documentaries in Japan, including Tokyo-Ga (1983), a tribute to director Yasujiro Ozu, whom he considers one of his masters. And that’s where you have to look for inspiration. In the purity of the staging and in the imperceptible variations that arise from repetition and build the narration.
Hirayama, his hero, a silent and solitary character, is a modest employee responsible for cleaning the public toilets in the Shibuya district every morning. Conscientious, he makes do with very little: a few Anglo-Saxon pop cassettes, second-hand books and an old film camera, with which he captures the reflection of the light in the leaves of the trees during his lunch break.
His routine is always the same, punctuated by his encounters – a young colleague, a homeless man, his runaway niece or the owner of a restaurant – which make each day unique and tell us a little about his past. On a soundtrack from the 1960s to 1980s, mixing The Velvet underground with Nina Simone, passing by the Rolling Stones and Patti Smith, punctuated by the round trips on the Tokyo ring road, which gives it the appearance of a road movie urban, and sublimated by magnificent photography, Wim Wenders takes us on board with him in this ode to simplicity and austerity with a very spiritual significance.
Sixteen years after her first Cannes selection for An Old Mistress, Catherine Breillat returns to competition with a remake of the Danish film Dronningen (2019), by May el-Toukhy. Last Summer tells of an incestuous relationship with troubled motivations. Anne (Léa Drucker) is a renowned lawyer. Specializing in cases of child abuse, she works with empathy with her clients, whom she does not hesitate to follow beyond the courts. She lives with her husband, Pierre (Olivier Rabourdin), boss of a big business, and her two adopted daughters, in a large and beautiful house in the suburbs.
In order to reconnect with his son Théo (Samuel Kircher), born from a first marriage, Pierre welcomes the 17-year-old teenager to the family home, expelled from his high school after a fight. Living together is not easy. When the house is robbed, Anne quickly makes the connection with Théo. In exchange for his silence, she makes him promise to make behavioral efforts. Imperceptibly, mother-in-law and son-in-law grow closer, until they give in to their mutual attraction.
Filmmaker with a sulphurous filmography (Romance, To my sister!, Anatomy of Hell…), Catherine Breillat continues her study of the female point of view, and finds in Léa Drucker a more than perfect interpreter. César 2019 for best actress in the terrifying Custody, by Xavier Legrand, the actress embodies here all the nuances of a woman in full loss of her bearings. But if the director largely renounces the excesses that marked her previous films, her denunciation of moralism does not convince.