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Year: 2004
Aya Ueto
Director: Kei Kataoka
Writer: Mika Omori, Risa Wataya (novel)
  Cast: Aya Ueto, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Kazuyoshi Aoki, Shichinosuke Nakamura, Rei Kikukawa, Hijiri Kojima, Hiroshi Okochi, Yoshiko Tanaka
  The Skinny: Surprisingly tame and inconsequential, this dreamy comedy-drama is more silly than funny and less entertaining than one might like, considering its subject matter. It may not be for everyone, but those who take the trip may just have a little fun before forgetting it days later.
Kevin Ma:

     Is it possible to reset life whenever you want to? This is the basic idea behind Install, a strange little comedy about adolescence, innocence, and Internet sex chats. Install first appeared as a novel by 17-year-old Wataya Risa, who would eventually win the Akutagawa Award, the Japanese equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for young writers, 2 years later with another novel. With its subject matter, people may expect some kind of breakthrough role for young idol Aya Ueto, or a raunchy comedy. However, Install is a film that isn't going to meet expectations with its charming innocence. Instead, the tame nature of the film is compensated with its dreamy state of being and a certain quirkiness that only Japanese films can achieve. Patience is required for those new to Japanese films, but everyone else may just find a good time somewhere in there.
     Directed by TV veteran Kei Kataoka, Install tells the story of Asako, a 17-year-old high school girl who lacks direction. Hoping to reset her life, she empties out her entire room and stops going to school. One day, she encounters Aoki, a strange 10-year-old boy who offers her the job of watching over his sex chat site while he's at school. However, there is one problem: both of them are virgins pretending to be a 26-year-old housewife. But that's okay, since Aoki speaks wisdom beyond his years (his explanations of sexual acts make for some of the most hilarious yet uncomfortable moments in the film), and Asako is eager to learn. Asako takes the job and begins to immerse herself into an adult world she's never seen before.
     Install is a unique commercial film. With the repetitive bubble-gum-pop-meets-Ikea music, quirky characters, and deadpan humor, Install seems to be trapped in a constant dreamy atmosphere. The film moves at a snail's pace because of its thin plot, and yet the film never bores. After all, the surreal world of Install reflects much of the inner turmoil that Asako goes through. At 17, Asako is trapped between a rock and a hard place; she feels that she's lived a full life, yet society tells her otherwise. The boredom of adolescence, however, may not be a pace nor style that appeals to everyone. Asako may be "re-installing" herself as a sex chat goddess, but even then she's still trapped inside a closet with the computer for hours, connecting with anonymous strangers all lying for false pleasure. In other words, Asako has merely moved from being a nihilist to an existentialist. But don't worry, Install is not that kind of movie. Just when the film hints at a darker corner with its subject matter, it takes a u-turn back to the light quirky humor that floods much of the film.
     Install actually stalls when something does happen. The first two acts are thoroughly enjoyable, as Asako discovers her crisis and new purpose in the world and interacts with possibly the horniest 10-year-old character in recent motion picture history. However, when the revelations and twists begin to arrive at the third act, the film's pace comes to a screeching halt. Plot points are confused by the quirky delivery as Kataoka continues to emphasize atmosphere over plot - perhaps not a very wise way to wrap up a film. When the film finally limps to its conclusion, what have these characters done to "install" themselves? The answer is: not much.
     Nevertheless, Install is one of the most interesting teen films to come out in years. Not necessarily inclined toward social commentary or huge character arcs, Kataoka seems to be aiming for a surreal inconsequential comedy with a touch of nihilism and existentialism. This might not be what everyone is looking for when it comes to a film on kids and Internet sex chats, and Install is tame compared to its American counterparts, but the not-so-cynical out there may dig its dreamy style and its unfaltering innocence. It's also that dreamy surreal style that prevents Install from being anything mind-blowing or something that will affect a teenager's life. Still, just like Asako and Aoki's journey into the adult world, even though the destination may not be very satisfying, at least the journey was fun while it lasted. (Kevin Ma 2006)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
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