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Helter Skelter ("Heruta Sukeruta")

Canadian Premiere
  • Japan
  • 2012
  • 127 mins
  • 35mm
  • Japanese
  • English (subtitles)
Official Selection, Taipei Film Festival 2012
Official Selection, BFI London Film Festival 2012
Official Selection, New York Asian Film Festival 2013

“Mind-bending, jaw-dropping eye candy… a directorial tour-de-force… a fantastic and unique piece of sensationally visual cinema” - James Mudge, BEYOND HOLLYWOOD

“The most fascinating thing about stardom, is that it’s like a deformity, a cancer.” LiLiCo, the astronomically beautiful model at the centre of this story, embodies all three of these things. The most coveted face in all of Japan, LiLiCo is on the cover of every magazine, and the object of lust and idolatry for all that enter her orbit. But HELTER SKELTER teaches us that perfect beauty is, in reality, nothing more than a lovely nightmare. The film opens with a stunning montage that showcases LiLiCo’s sparkling career against the neon Tokyo landscape, but soon reveals that she is in fact the manufactured product of a series of never-ending surgical procedures performed by a clinic that puts its clients’ wallets far ahead of their mental and physical health. As a side effect, LiLiCo must now contend with and conceal an increasing number of shadowy blemishes that serve as reminders of the artifice and transience of her beauty. The ephemeral nature of the industry becomes all the more pronounced when a younger, newer rival makes her debut, drawing the spotlight away from the increasingly erratic LiLiCo. To top it all off, the clinic and its clients are under investigation by a pair of curious detectives straight out of film noir.

Based on the award-winning manga by subversive gyaru (“gal”) manga artist Kyoko Okazaki, HELTER SKELTER is an incisively satirical examination of the contemporary fashion industry. Okazaki’s story readily recalls William Klein’s WHO ARE YOU, POLLY MAGOO? , the iconic nouvelle vague mockumentary that shone a devastatingly sardonic light into the increasingly commodified world of 1960s beauty culture. HELTER SKELTER is itself a searing indictment of contemporary celebrity culture and explores the ease with which anyone can reach the pinnacle of fame these days. As LiLiCo falls farther and farther from her glitter-encrusted pedestal, HELTER SKELTER paints an aggressively effective portrait of the ways in which sex and power can become dangerously interchangeable, particularly for the young and beautiful. With a deceptively candy-coloured perspective on Japanese commodity culture – the famous ad-infested Shibuya crosswalk will never look the same afterwards. HELTER SKELTER is not to be missed, and most definitely proves that laughter and screams sound very much alike in the end.

— Lindsay Peters