This film is a character study of a middle-aged gentle and solitary man (brilliantly acted by veteran actor Koji Yakusho) who lives alone, but is not lonely. He is content with a structured and simple life and greets each morning with a smile.
He wakes to the sound of someone sweeping the street outside his small neatly managed space, packs away his floor-bed, shaves and trims his moustache, cleans his teeth and dresses to go to work in a blue jumpsuit with the words The Tokyo Toilet written on the back.
As he leaves, he buys a can of coffee from a vending machine which he drinks as he drives a vehicle fitted with cleaning equipment. On the way to work he plays cassettes of 70s and 80s music.
He is a meticulous worker – wiping, scrubbing and mopping three of Tokyo’s amazing new stylish public toilets, and spends his lunchtime in a park enjoying nature and taking photos of trees with an old camera – often watching a homeless man dance ( played by Min Tanaka, famous for conceiving the body as a force of nature acutely sensitive to external stimuli).
At night he cycles to a public bath-house and eats at a local restaurant, reads William Faulkner paperbacks with a bed-light and dreams (in black and white) of street scenes mixed with shadowy leaves and branches.
There are hints of a previous life of privilege when a niece comes to live with him for a few days and when unexpected incidents occur in his life.
After several years away from the screen acclaimed director Wim Wenders (Paris Texas/ Wings of Desire) wrote the script with Takuma Takasaki in two weeks. It was filmed with a hand-held camera in 17 days with little rehearsal and some improvisation from Yakusho (who hardly speaks during the film). Franz Lustig was the cinemaphotographer.
It is a life-affirming meditative film which won the Prize of Ecumenical Jury and the Best Actor Award for Yakusho at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.
Japanese language with English sub-titles.
Showing at Somerville Crawley from Monday, January 15 to Sunday, January 21 at 8 pm.
Watch the trailer…