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    Ping Pong


    The surprisingly wonderful "Ping Pong" is part high-school jock movie, part high-flying martial-arts epic, except with table tennis.


    Among the phrases we never thought would be published in these pages, very high on the list was "a high-impact table-tennis thrill ride." But you never know when the likes of the Japanese film "Ping Pong" will come along and smack your preconceptions right back over the net at you.

    Directed by: Fumihiko Sori.
    Written by: Kankur™ Kud™.
    Cast: Y™suke Kubozuka, Arata, Sam Lee, Shido Nakamura, Koji Ogura.
    In Japanese with some English and Cantonese with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site
    Anthology Film Archives 32 Second Ave. (at Second Street) Sat., May 17, 2003, 6:15 p.m. Mon., May 26, 2003, 6 p.m.

    Asian Films Are Go! 2003
  • Overview
  • Double Agent
  • Double Vision
  • Out

  • Ping Pong
  • Runaway Pistol
  • So Close
  • Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

  • Previous years' festivals
  • When Korean Cinema Attacks! (2001)
  • Asian Films Are Go! (2002)

  • Official site
  • At its peak moments, the film gives you a table's-eye view of the intense practitioners of Asia's pastime and an appealing portrait of ping pong like you've never seen it before. These schoolkids live and breathe the game as if it were Texas high school football. Or war.

    "Peco" Hoshino and "Four-eyes" Tsukimoto (also nicknamed "Smile" because he never does) are best friends and lifelong ping-pong rivals. Peco is a blowhard who covers in bragadocio what he lacks in top-class talent, while Tsukimoto is an introvert who buries his natural ability under an attitude of brooding apathy. The other schools seem to have much more disciplined players (and one even has a fearsome champion who is — gasp! — Chinese), so if you're looking for the underdogs in this epic, samurai-like battle, you've found them.

    Funny but sometimes sobering, "Ping Pong" is full of drama, tension and humor. Parents coddle their children's fragile egos. Competing teams try to intimidate each other. The popular girls flock to the winning players and dump the washouts like yesterday's sushi. The ping-pong press stirs up locker-room controversy. Rival coaches (one of whom may in fact be the best character in the film) ride herd on their players, re-enacting old rivalries from their own high school days, trying to redeem their own long-ago failures.

    Ultimately, the game transcends the repetitive ka-plink ka-plink ka-plink of little plastic balls on wooden tables — it becomes an elegant tango of the mind and soul.  

    It's either the pressure or the ego that gets the best of one player who perches on a bridge railing, threatening to jump.

    "What will your parents think if you die?" asks a passing cop, taking a tactic that certainly wouldn't have occurred to an American in this situation.

    "Die?" says the player.

    "Yes, you won't amount to anything if you're dead," the officer warns.

    Grandiosely, the deranged youngster proclaims in English, "I can fly!"

    "Yes, you can fly!" the officer chimes in, indulging the youngster before realizing that encouraging him to try flying might be a bad tactic.

      Ping Pong
    As it turns out, when the city championship comes around, you too will believe these kids can fly. In a variation of "Crouching Tiger"-style wire-fu, the ping pong reaches such a crescendo that soon the players are leaping, lunging and soaring beyond belief. Ultimately, the game transcends the repetitive ka-plink ka-plink ka-plink ka-plink of little plastic balls on wooden tables — it becomes an elegant tango of the mind and soul. The film sweeps you aloft into the ping-pong stratosphere along with the best players, and as hokey as that must sound if you haven't seen it, you'll be a believer once you do.

    So sure, Americans hate subtitles and foreign countries and foreign people other than Antonio Banderas in their movies, as a rule. I know that. But if once in a while they're willing to watch Japanese-speaking Japanese people do ballroom dancing, of all things, maybe they're ready for a high-impact table-tennis thrill ride like "Ping Pong" with a totally likeable story and cast and a sense of humor. I think it's got a chance.

    MAY 15, 2003

    Reader comments on Ping Pong:

  • wheres the wire-fu?   from gordy, Aug 8, 2003
  • impressive!!!   from ana melissa, Jan 31, 2004
  • Re: impressive!!!   from lito, Nov 28, 2005
  • go ping pong!   from lisa, Mar 14, 2004
  • [no subject]   from , Jun 9, 2004
  • [no subject]   from Pinpante, Jul 21, 2004
  • Re: Toronto screening??   from Gideon, Nov 24, 2004
  • I Love This Movie   from Peco-San, Aug 8, 2004
  • A Nice Movie   from 1783174, Oct 3, 2004
  • PING PONG!!!   from Steven Jenkins, Feb 6, 2005
  • Best Movie Ever.   from AJ, May 10, 2005
  • I love this movie!   from Ryan, Nov 28, 2005
  • Im from the USA   from Patrick harmon, Jan 1, 2006
  • Ping pong clothing   from PPGEAR, Feb 22, 2006
  • Ping Pong   from Jirina, Nov 2, 2006

  • Post a comment on "Ping Pong"