2016, 104 min, Germany, Dir: Doris Dörrie

Desperate to move past the heartbreak of her broken engagement, young German Marie (Rosalie Thomass) joins the charity circus troupe Clowns4help and travels to Fukushima, Japan, hoping to bring joy to the elderly survivors of the 2011 nuclear disaster. But Marie finds herself ill-suited to the work and is about to leave until she meets Satomi (Kaori Momoi), the city’s last geisha, who is determined to return to her home in the radioactive exclusion area. Infusing both characters and script with her trademark tragically comedic style, writer-director Dörrie, shooting in black-and-white, brings a refreshingly off-beat perspective to an otherwise heavy subject. In German and Japanese with English subtitles.

2012, Asmik Ace, 127 min, Japan, Dir: Mika Ninagawa

Lilico (Erika Sawajiri) is Japan’s top model and the envy of every high school girl across the country. She is also, with the exception of her fingernails and a couple other parts, entirely fake. Created with the most advanced plastic surgery methods organized by her savvy and manipulating manager (Kaori Momoi), Lilico is a star on the verge of elite status. But as her own manufactured body deteriorates, she lashes out at and torments her social circle, particularly her infatuated assistant (Shinobu Terajima). When a philosophical prosecutor (Nao Omori) begins to collect evidence of medical malpractice stemming from the grisly suicides of models whose bodies have been destroyed by similar surgeries, Lilico’s life starts to unravel in spectacular fashion. Based on Kyoko Okazaki’s eponymous award-winning manga (2004 Grand Winner of the Tezuka Osama Cultural Prize), HELTER SKELTER has the bright sets and colorful palette of Ninagawa’s SAKURAN, with some kinky sex and macabre violence thrown in for good measure. As a kinetic look at celebrity culture and the fashion industry, the mix of black humor and gaudy melodrama makes for a satire that is appropriately in-your-face. In Japanese with English subtitles.

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