Ping Pong

"Excellent"

Ping Pong Review


Most people in the West are only barely aware of world-class table tennis, but this documentary could create a new generation of fans. Actually, three or four generations. It's about over-80s champions who turn out to be great movie characters.

The filmmakers centre on eight competitors as they prepare for the 2010 World Championships in China. In Britain, weightlifter Les (89) and cancer-survivor Terry (81) compete in different divisions but are still arch-rivals.

Austrian-born Lisa (85) lives in Houston with her 65-year-old gun-toting husband Joachim; Inge and Ursula are both 90-year-olds from Germany; Rune (85) is from Stockholm; Sun Yong (80) is from Inner Mongolia; and the group's senior member is Dorothy, a strong Australian competitor at 100.

All of them have shelf-loads of medals and trophies. While coping with the physical issues of their ages, they face competition with hilarious good humour and a wide range of preparation techniques. Inge turned to ping pong to help her recover from a series of strokes, and it worked wonders. Sun Yong swears by his Chinese herbal remedies but still smokes and drinks. Terry faces recurring cancer with dry wit and determination. And with her serious Texan hairdo, Lisa is like an unstoppable Beth Grant character.

You couldn't make these people up, and the Hartford brothers clearly enjoy following their journeys to the championships. So by the time they're playing each other in the arena, we can't help but cheer them on. Ursula observes that "the young people are shitting themselves" in the face of the older players.

While talking to the camera, Lisa lets it slip that she was in the French Resistance during the war. And during his climactic match a breathless Terry turns to the cameraman and jokes, "Lend me your lungs."

With lively, skilfully intimate camerawork and sparky editing, the film captures the players' personalities and the energy of the matches. It's also accompanied by a terrific musical score that keeps the pace brisk, even though the filmmakers never cut away for a cheap laugh. Yes, the film keeps a smile on our faces all the way through, but it also inspires us to perhaps think about doing something with our golden years besides sitting around moaning about our aches and pains.



Ping Pong

Facts and Figures

Run time: 80 mins

In Theaters: Friday 6th July 2012

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Hugh Hartford, Anson Hartford

Producer: Hugh Hartford, Anson Hartford

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