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Archive for January 5th, 2013

Helter Skelter (2012)

Helter Skelter

LiLiCo is the most popular idol in Japan where her face is on the cover of every fashion magazine and she’s adored by thousands of young girls who want to be like her. Despite her beauty, LiLiCo is quite a vain, arrogant person in reality and a demanding diva. She leads a decadent lifestyle, her house is full of garish things and even with a rich boyfriend she frequently has sex with various other men in order to secure modelling contracts for herself. Her manager is treated with disdain by her attitude. LiLiCo panics when she discovers a rather ugly black blemish on her perfect face and races over to her plastic surgeon doctor to fix the problem by having additional surgery. Over the years LiLiCo has been completely transformed by plastic surgery in order to become the stunning person that she is now. She is a shadow of her former self. What LiLiCo doesn’t know is that Dr Wachi, the plastic surgeon is under investigation for using illegal procedures. Many of her clients have killed themselves after discovering similar blemishes on their face and body. To make matters worse for LiLiCo, she faces competition from a young rising star named Kozue Yoshikawa who starts becoming popular. LiLiCo descends into a drug fuelled nightmare which leads into madness……….

I’d been looking forward to seeing this movie for a while thanks to it’s leading actress in Erika Sawajiri. This movie is a dark satire about the evils of plastic surgery and the lengths some women will take to keep their beauty intact and improve themselves. There is a lot of pressure these days on young women to try and become perfect. Director Mika Ninagawa also looks at the trappings of the showbiz game and the fall from grace of LiLiCo. She’s a person that loves the glamour and adoration from the general public. It’s like a drug for LiLiCo in that she wants more but when that attention is drawn away from her by a young model who has natural beauty and hasn’t resorted to plastic surgery it enrages LiLiCo who wants all the glory to herself and she isn’t willing to share it with anybody. Ninagawa could have focused the plot on the investigation into the suicidal deaths of young girls but she chose to spotlight the story solely on LiLiCo. There will naturally be comparisons to the movie Black Swan as they both share a similar storyline. Some people might be offended by the nudity and sexual imagery on display. Something the viewer will notice from watching this movie is just how beautiful it looks. It’s full of bright sharp colours and there’s frequent use of red in various scenes. The cinematography at times is outstanding such as a scene in which LiLiCo meets her chubby little sister in a field full of yellow flowers during a fashion shoot. Ninagawa was a fashion photographer before turning her hand to movies so she probably knows how to maximise the use of colour in her work. I also loved the clothes that LiLiCo gets to wear throughout the movie. Unfortunately the movie goes on for far too long. At 2hrs and 7 mins I felt Ninagawa was stretching the storyline longer than necessary. A good 20-30 mins should have been cut.

Helter Skelter screenshot

This movie marked the return to the big screen of Erika Sawajiri and I’m not going to retread on things that I’ve mentioned before but the majority of people will know about what happened in 2007 during a press conference for a movie she starred in but she was basically blackballed by the Japanese showbiz industry. It’s been 5 years since her exile and she comes back with a bang in this movie. Sawajiri’s performance is nothing short of sensational. I don’t think anybody else could have played the role of LiLiCo. It’s like the part was made for Sawajiri. It could even be said that she’s even playing herself! This is also the first movie for her to be completely nude. LiLiCo is a malicious and shallow bitch who is driven by greed and success. It’s difficult for the viewer to warm to the character because of how she is and the way she plays with the feelings of her meek manager who is devoted to LiLiCo. When she does fall from grace you won’t feel any sympathy towards her at all. It would have been nice had the story shown LiLiCo when she was younger in order to show her vulnerable side before her transformation by surgery. As LiLiCo goes deeper into her drugs hell, she’s finally exposed on live TV when she starts hallucinating that she is seeing colourful butterflies and various other things are happening all around her. Her downfall is complete when she plunges a knife into her right eye during a press conference. Although Sawajiri is main star of this movie, there’s a very strong cast of acting veterans supporting her in the movie such as Sho Aikawa, Susumu Terajima and Anne Suzuki amongst many others although their screentime is limited.

Helter Skelter is a nice movie to look at with the exquisite visuals employed by the director but the story is rather flawed. Thankfully the brilliant acting by Erika Sawajiri makes sure that you never get bored watching it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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