What prolongs life, or perhaps the quality of life, rather than its longevity?
The film Ping Pong made me reflect on this. It’s a documentary style film about people in their 80s, 90s and one Australian woman was 100, who were competing at the World over 80s Table Tennis Championships in Inner Mongolia. The film, sensitively put together by film makers Anson Hartford and Hugh Hartford, in a collaboration with Banyak Films, showed the stories of eight competitors from different parts of the world before they culminated in China.
From England, was Les (90), and poster boy for the movie, putting himself through a vigorous weight training session. Terry, also from England, (81), had been diagnosed with cancer and given only weeks to live, but was defying medical opinion and competing months later. Dot aged 100 had travelled from Australia. The sport was obviously responsible for saving one German woman. Inge, (89), who had virtually given up on life after her husband died, and had signed herself into a care home. She had never played the sport before and was competing for the first time.
They were from all corners of the world but had a few commonalities. They were competitive. That edge of sport, the sheer will to win, doesn’t diminish with age. All the usual rules of sport, the subterfuge, competitiveness, mind games and some underhand tricks were all on display. There was talk of someone’s bat “going missing.” Sport seems to have its own unwritten rules, whatever age you are.
Belief was especially prevalent in Terry, who was battling health problems. Like the Terminator, he kept coming back and refused to believe what the doctors’ were telling him. And Les also had a few philosophies on belief, stating that he who believes he can win, will win.
Texan, Lisa, originally from Vienna, had big blonde bee-hive hair, and was getting her long nails painted before competing. She’s 85. Incidentally, in her younger days Lisa joined the French Resistance and helped smuggle Jews out of Austria, for which she received the Croix de Guerre.
The film also highlighted the importance of sport, any sport, for not only keeping you physically fit and active, but the mental benefits of providing a purpose, something to play for, and for keeping the mind active and engaged. And the joy of winning and being good at something is the same, whether you are five or 85.
This was a sensitive, funny, inspiring and uplifting film, which also instilled a hope for those of us worried about reaching our own advancing years. And if you’ve been inspired by this year’s summer of sport, the Olympics and Paralympics, this film could fill a gap that’s been left behind. Like the tagline for this movie says – Never Too Old For Gold.
Also check out the link to the website Ping Pong Film where you can stream the film and watch for £4.99.
Oscar (Kyrre Hellum) is trapped underneath an obese stripper’s dead body in a porn shop which is splattered with blood and strewn with corpses. He’s also holding a gun. An easy job for police detective Solor, played by Henrik Mestad, you might think.
He certainly seems to think so as he declares “We found you an hour ago under a massive woman.” But unsurprisingly things aren’t quite as they seem and as Oscar’s outlandish story unfolds, Solor is constantly surprised that it stacks up and it seems that Oscar is a hapless man caught up in the unfortunate circumstances of a football bet gone wrong.
Oscar runs a Christmas tree factory employing ex-cons and Oscar and three others have won a massive sum of cash. Greed overtakes and the situation soon begins to spiral out of control and into chaos.
Set somewhere in a small town between the border of Norway and Sweden, south-west of Oslo, this film is an adaptation of a Jo Nesbo book, whose work Headhunters has also recently been seen on film.
This adaptation is mixes the macabre with the hilarious. There’s lots of gore and moments where your jaw might hit the floor in disbelief. The film somehow manages to make body chopping funny.
A slick movie reminiscent of The Usual Suspects and Fargo with shades of Quentin Tarantino and some impressive acting performances.
Searching For Sugar Man
If you haven’t already seen this film, see it or get the DVD. It’s the story of Sixto Rodriguez, a singer/songwriter from early 70s Detroit. He didn’t make much of an impact, he brought out two albums, Cold Fact (1970) and Coming From Reality (1971), and was then dropped by his record label. One of his songs Cause, proved prophetic with the line “I lost my job two days before Christmas” which actually came true. He then dropped out of the music scene and ended up doing laboring jobs. We meet a few people in the film who describe him as a bit of an enigma, a drifter, they’re not sure he even had a fixed address.
This was only the start of an unusual and heartwarming story, which took decades to unfold. While he was sinking into oblivion, people in South Africa were in awe of his albums, which had came to them through bootlegging. He was more popular there than The Rolling Stones, Elvis and The Beatles. His albums were seminal and his heartfelt lyrics about ordinary people, injustice and their everyday struggles spoke to South African people, struck in an oppressive, unjust apartheid regime.
Rodriguez’s albums were making people believe they could change their future, yet the singer remained oblivious. The people of South Africa also didn’t know anything about this mystery man. All they had were his obscure albums. The songs were attributed to either Rodriguez, Sixo or Jesus Rodriguez. They didn’t even know his name. A rumour sprang up that he had died, setting himself on fire while on stage.
Two South Africans, record shop manager Stephen Segerman and music journalist Craig Bartholomew-Strydom, made it their quest to find out more about the mysterious singer. Their passion and efforts were remarkable, their own lives changed, and the story unfolded in a way they could never have imagined.
The cinematography deserves a mention. Some of the scenes were stunning. There’s Rodriguez trudging through the deep-snow laden streets of a run-down and desolate Detroit, wearing a long dark overcoat. He’s a tall, thin shadowy, lonely figure and his haunting sparse lyrics make a fitting backdrop. The scenes are beautiful, bleak and atmospherically spellbinding.
The film is very good but not perfect. There were quite a few unanswered questions.
Someone, somewhere made a lot of money, Who? Where did the money go? The film does however have a highly entertaining and insightful interview with Clarence Avant from Sussex Records, who held the albums at the time.
The film is also an interesting insight into the operations of the music business and a bygone era of an industry which has changed dramatically.
There’s more to say about this movie, and maybe you already know the ending by now, but if you don’t, I’m not going to risk spoiling it by saying anymore. Just watch it.
The Dark Knight Rises
I’ll admit this genre of movie isn’t my favourite but I can appreciate the big action films. They have a place. They can be entertaining, good escapism and displays of amazing effects. I thought director Christopher Nolan’s previous Batman films (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) were a welcome revamping of the caped crusader, and in reading the many excellent reviews for The Dark Knight Rises, I was looking forward to seeing how this film would tie up Nolan’s trilogy.
Sadly, this film was is nearly three hours of my life which I’ll never get back. I didn’t get it. I found Bane (Tom Hardy), the Bat’s formidable adversary, difficult to understand, despite the fact that the film’s previous sound problems had rectified.
The film felt too long, the plot a bit too convoluted at times as it tried to round up the storyline and towards the end, a bit too predictable. It felt a bit like watching the end of a James Bond movie, perhaps influenced by Nolan’s reported affection for the 007 brand.
But there were some redeeming points. Some of the effects were big and impressive and Anne Hathaway as slinky burglar Selina Kyle proved an intriguing mix of danger and vulnerability.