Chih-Hsiang Ma’s KANO is an exhaustingly sentimental baseball picture that overstays its welcome to a huge degree.
An ethnically diverse baseball team from southern Taiwan (what commentators call a “miracle team”) competes for the top prize at Japan’s Koshien baseball championship. Set in 1931, the film is essentially an underdog story, but it lacks any real grasp of whom these misfit athletes are and why we should care about them and their accomplishments.
What could have been an interesting examination of class in professional sports –and also Taiwan’s overlooked colonialist history in cinema –turns into a parade of schmaltz. There are some strong performances to be salvaged, including Masatoshi Nagase as the team’s stolid coach, but the screenplay lacks any vestige of subtlety and is almost all emotional punctuation.
What’s impressive about the picture is the production value. This 185-minute saga, shot on a 10 million-dollar budget and the film by cinematographer Ting-chang Chin, achieves gorgeous romantic textures. But Naoki Sato’s score is laughably out of place; no better than the tacky stock music you can download for free online. Simply put- for a movie as painfully conventional as KANO, there’s no reason for it to be this long when really the content is about as forceful as a leisurely ground ball to first base. Easy out. (Parker Mott)
Sunday, November 9th (Centerpiece Presentation), 7:00pm, Royal Cinema