Mama Ping Pong Social Club starts with an irritating scene: an electric fan that is unable to oscillate and thus makes the pesky sound.
Such irritating feeling keeps coming back throughout the movie, in the scene of the noisy washing machine, the bleeding finger, the stretched arm trying to grasp the ping pong ball underneath the shelves.
Every detail of this short film is meticulously calculated so that it could create such a vibe of unease, untidiness and unsettlement, pretty much like a situation of a middle-aged mother in her menopause distraughtly looking at her empty nest when her husband left for another woman and her grown-up child is also leaving her for an independent life.
Asian audiences must feel deeply related since the director intentionally adds in Asian elements, such as the narrow corridor with beaded door curtains, or the house with so many stuff that would never be thrown away due to the mindset of “just keep it, for someday we may need it”.
This movie is a mix of contrasting emotions: melancholy and comicality, worry and calmness. Its rhythm is dynamic and flexible, with unpredictably varying pace. Neither too serious nor monotonous, such mode of filmmaking reminds me of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, and I believe that this is a certain pattern in the latest films.
Albeit categorized into horror genre, this film is actually about motherhood and maternal bond. It is so reminiscent of a Ukrainian short animation I watched some months ago, which is Пуповина (The Cord), directed by Olexandr Bubnov.
You took my power the minute I gave birth to you. A woman becomes a mother she can’t help but see her mortality in that cherubic little face, every time I looked at you….I saw my own death, you were a constant reminder of my worst fear.
(Fiona to Cordelia, AHS: Coven)
Once a woman gives birth to a child, the moment when the umbilical cord is cut off, it has something in it that is really sacred and symbolic. It works as a prophecy that 18 years later, the child would break free from his or her mother’s arms. It foretells that whatever life mission the mother associates with her blood child’s growth is, at the end of the day, just a waste.
After 18 years of caring and nurturing her child, the woman must face an inevitable reality that her child could not be with her for good. What’s left is just aging and loneliness. So what now? Any better choice than to find a new home in the groups of aunties?
Just like a vampire, they have to use other people’s blood to survive, and they have to turn people into the same kind.
(Shiang-An Chuang, the director of Mama PingPong Social Club)
September 6, 2021
I’ve just listened to ABBA’s Slipping through my fingers; the song immediately reminds me of Mama Ping Pong Social Club.