Helter Skelter

Herutâ sukerutâ

Mika Ninagawa’s follow-up to Sakuran is a big, splashy thrill-ride, tearing into the supermodel/teen idol industries which dominate J-pop culture.

Image gallery

  • Director Mika Ninagawa
  • Producer Mitsuru Uda, Morio Amagi
  • Screenwriter Arisa Kaneko
  • With Erika Sawajiri, Nao Omori, Kaori Momoi
  • Japan 2012
  • 127 mins
  • Sales Asmik Ace

The second feature by Mika Ninagawa (daughter of the celebrated theatre director Yukio Ninagawa) lives up to its name. It’s a big, splashy thrill-ride, kinda reminiscent of vintage Ken Russell, which tears into the supermodel/teen-idol industries that make the world of Japanese pop culture go round. Lilico (rather bravely played by Erika Sawajiri, Japan’s Kate Moss) is The Face, but her outer beauty masks the tantrums of a self-hating queen bitch – and the work of a ‘beautician’ whose clinic is under police investigation for its criminal techniques. The plot (from a manga by Kyoko Okazaki) turns on hysterical jealousy and rivalries, but it comes second to the unflagging energy and visual flash. Absolutely fabulous support from Nao Omori as the prosecutor and the magnificent Kaori Momoi as Lilico’s ruthless manager.
Tony Rayns

Director statement

I waited seven years for the project to be greenlit, the longest time I’ve waited for anything in my entire life. But I felt I had to do this, if only because I am a woman and an artist, and if this material wound up in the wrong hands, well... one shudders to think what could happen [...] During this waiting period, I kept my eye on Erika Sawajiri for the lead role of the delectable LiLiCo. I wanted someone exceptionally beautiful, but also with depth and personality. But really, the beauty part came first. No one could match Erika’s bewitching charm. There’s an otherworldly factor to it. No one else seemed even close to filling the role of LiLiCo [...] Growing up, I was always surrounded by people with a burning desire to make something beautiful. So beauty means a lot to me, especially physical beauty. There is this model friend of mine who never, ever eats carbs, or much of anything else. That’s what it takes, really. A woman with ambitions to get into the media will make that effort and keep doing it for years. On the other side of the lens, though, are those that consume these women’s images. Just that: consume. And between the consumer and the consumed, there is a rift so wide they may as well be in different galaxies. [...] There’s rage in me as well. As a photographer, I’m always in the middle of this dilemma about wanting the best expression, the most beautiful shot, but on the other hand, I know what these models and actresses are going through, how lonely it is to be on the other side of the lens, ruthlessly reflected and then manufactured for mass consumption.
Mika Ninagawa

Director biography

Born in 1972 in Tokyo, she has been feted since the mid-90s as Japan’s most popular and best-selling stills photographer, having had more than 70 exhibitions, and published more than 60 books of her vibrant and brightly coloured work. Her 2007 manga-based debut film, Sakuran, was screened at the Berlin and Hong Kong International Film Festivals. Helter Skelter was a massive box-office hit in Japan earlier this year.


2007 Sakuran
2012 Herutâ sukerutâ (Helter Skelter)