Posted in Fantasia 2013, Fantasia International Film Festival, Film Festivals, Reviews

Helter Skelter review – Fantasia 2013

Helter Skelter / ヘルタースケルター  / Heruta Sukeruta (2012)
Director: Mika Ninagawa ; Screenplay: Arisa Kaneko, Kyoko Okazaki
Cast: Erika Sawajiri, Nao Omori, Kaori Momoi, Shinobu Terajima, Kiko Mizuhara

The striking visuals will immediately grab your attention. The colours are lush and the set design is luxurious as one would expect for a movie about models. The main actress, Erika Sawajiri, is intense and riveting in the all important main role of Lilico. She’s the most popular model at the moment but never seems to be happy and starts to break down both mentally and physically when younger competition arrives. Indeed she starts getting dark spots on her skin which are getting harder and harder to hide with makeup. The movie focuses on her most of the time with a small side plot of a police investigation into suspicious activities of a “beauty clinic” which Lilico uses.

Whether you enjoy this movie or not will depend highly on whether you sympathize with Lilico or if you like watching train wrecks in a figurative manner. There is certainly some depraved sexual moments in the movie and some commentary on the pressures of celebrity and beauty but I found the story to be ultimately shallow and worse, just plain boring most of the time in spite of shocking scenes which just show that Lilico can be a bitch. It also makes little sense or is not explained why Lilico (or rather her modeling agency) would use this particular “beauty clinic” despite its shady activities. The movie is also overlong and when I got out of my seat during what I thought was the ending, it continued onward with an extended series of epilogues that I absolutely did not care about and honestly do not really add much if anything to the story.

There are unique elements and technical aspects in this movie that merit notice but the story was not enjoyable to watch. It wants to be thought-provoking and edgy but doesn’t really accomplish either.



Longtime fan of East Asian films. Former "movie reporter" on the music radio show / podcast "Beats From The East" broadcasted on Concordia University's CJLO 1690AM radio station in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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