›› City Without Baseball - Mou ye chi sing
a film by Lawrence (Lau) Ah Mon, Scud.
2008 | 100 mins | Hong Kong.
principal players: Leung Yu Chung / Chung, Ron Heung / Ron, John Tai / Coach Tai, Gia Lin / Meizi, Monie Tung / Kim, Yan Wei Sha / Ping, Jason Tsang / Jason, Ryan Williams / Kevin and Wing Leung Jose Au as Captain Jose Au.
Adapted Synopsis: "In a city where baseball culture is almost non-existent, the actual members of the Hong Kong baseball team bare their souls, along with their bodies, playing themselves in this fictional youth drama charting the highs and lows of life, love and sexual discovery."
Whilst essentially a variation of the "new coach makes a bad team, good" scenario, what makes this outing atypical from the genre is that not only is it based upon stories provided by the team itself, but notably played by its own members; real name fashion. Only and in as much as the once forever losing side went on to compete with tier-1 teams for a seat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it's the off-pitch antics that take to the cinematic stage, given it's only in the final reel that we get to see the boys play the game, they love.
So cue and for the main part a series of practice sessions, intercut with the film's romantic heart, namely the numerous love interests of its key players. Yet and in as much as scenes of the coach with his new girl, mix with footage of Chung, aka the object of everyone's desire, falling for a girl with suicidal tendencies, it is the relationship between Ron and his new girlfriend Meizi that takes to the gay stage, eager as she is to encourage her man to open himself up to the sexual diversity of life. Only all the sex scenes are hetero, with Ron's crush on Chung reduced to that of a kiss of the tender variety.
A shoulder to lean on in City Without Baseball.
That said and what is missing in terms of man-on-man action, is and in his debut feature, heavily compensated for by way of Scud's now trademark attention to male nudity, that here includes a set of sensuous opening credits staged in the locker room showers. That these men are clearly relaxed in each other's naked company, goes without saying, a sense of ease that results in a series of wonderfully natural performances from one and all, given what is on display is in effect, scenes of real life camaraderie.
Locker room banter in City Without Baseball.
Sure, a few negatives can be found in the mix, as the narrative navigates itself around a fragmented path. Yet this is equally a film with some surprising touches, not least being a soundtrack that pays specific attention to its singers, listing their names and details on screen; obituary fashion. Only and in as much as the dialogue speaks of Ron's burgeoning sexuality, that of a touching "falling in love with your straight best friend" theme, played teammate fashion, at the end of the day, this is a film that foremost shines its spotlight on a group of sportsmen who delight in playing a minority sport, in a stadium devoid of spectators. For the true love of the show is not one of human sexuality; rather it's the love of the game. Yet and in spite of solid production values throughout, the end result makes for an uneven score, given a number of characters all but exit stage left after their brief appearance, leaving an unfocused narrative in their wake. What the film does succeed in however, is having put baseball firmly on the Hong Kong map, together with the name Scud on the directorial stage.
Gay Visibility - covert.
Nudity - the full monty.
Overall - file under ... 3 stars.