Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema Old and Bold

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema Old and Bold

Article excerpt

Ping Pong PG, Key cities Tortoise in Love 12A, Key cities Two films this week, one about oldies who play table tennis at an international level and another that is a love story funded by an Oxfordshire village, whose inhabitants feature as bit-part characters and extras. And I'll be upfront about it: one is rather good whereas, although I'd have liked to like the other, and said it was sweet and charming, it wasn't, so I can't. Either way, at least there isn't a reboot of a rebooted comic book movie that 'redefines the genre' - until everyone realises it does not - in sight.

You get what I'm saying? Good. Let's move on.

Ping Pong is a documentary about the over-80s table tennis world championships.

Who knew? I didn't. But they take place every year and, this year, pensioners from all over the world are heading to the Inner Mongolian city of Hohhot. Directed by Hugh Hartford, and produced by his brother Anson, this is the first release from the newly formed Britdoc organisation and, as far as documentaries go, it is utterly conventional in its structure. It introduces the significant characters, explores their backstories, all the while cutting to the competition itself. I suppose some would say it was workmanlike, but I think it suits the material, and gives it a calm, understated feel, rather than a shouty, patronising one of the kind that goes: 'Hey, look, old people do stuff!'

The British representatives are 89-yearold Les D'Arcy, who writes rap and poetry and does weights every day, and 81-year-old Terry Donlon, who is being treated for prostate cancer. 'I want to keep playing because I don't want to sit down and I don't want to die, ' he says. Other competitors include 101-year-old fluffy-haired Australian Dorothy deLow who, when asked why she wants to continue playing, being so old, replies with an indignant, 'I'm not old!'

There's Rune from Sweden and China's Sun, but my favourite, by far, is Lisa Modlich, the 86-year-old former Austrian war bride and Texas resident who is marvellously beady-eyed, wears her hair in a sinister up-do, paints her nails blood red and proves the villain of the piece. 'She's so old she can't move, ' she says, as she watches Dorothy play. She calls another competitor a 'silly cow' and, for good measure, tells that competitor's son why he is fat. …

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