Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fat Men Make Cry

Wakayama, the Lone Wolf

Tomisaburo Wakayama comes across as a complete slob - he drags his overweight frame across the ground with the alacrity of a metallic crane, his skin drapes over his cheekbones like an inflated raft, his lower lip dangles in listless isolation. His hairpiece is in a state of utter disarray, with strands scattered and astray, he sweats profusely on the face, his kimono has clumsy tears here/there and his eyes open at best to a sluggish slit – at best, he looks like a soup shop owner slapped awake. But this is his greatest strength too – much like Sammo Hung, who invented the ‘teapot-body as martial-arts star style’ (see: Winners as Sinners, where he makes a big deal of his body-shape), Wakayama’s success in ol’ fashioned dueling (and he always duels, even when against an army of hundred : fighters must wait for their turn) is because of the sheer surprise he springs – he wins, therefore, not despite his stoutness, but because of it. His opponents attach a certain (low) level of agility to his body-type, and are often disappointed when he, more supple than they thought, dances (Kenji Misumi knows it is dance, after all) across the floor and slits their head open into a blood-sprinkle more profound than their ill-informed prejudice against fat men. Wakayama is therefore the Efren Reyes of jidaegeki and indeed, all of martial-art cinema. 

Reyes moves around the table languidly, performing at best a formality – his shirt is untucked, he has a stupid smile on his face, and if there is ever a bow-tie, it is closer to the first button than to the collar-groove. Also, he is considered the best player to have ever played pool. Similarly, the gaucheness of Wakayama’s appearance is his greatest deception – where opponents accept a casual attitude, he goes in quick, sets up the deception, pots the balls and comes out.

No comments:

Post a Comment