STOP10 Feb 2017: 'Wong Tai Foong' by Anthea Ng
Wong Tai Foong by Anthea Ng employs snappy editing and quirky graphics to tell the story of an uptight security guard who develops an ability to switch identities with the owners of lost wallets. In the process, he comes a little out of his shell and starts to notice other people's lives.
Wong Tai Foong (aka WTF), a security guard who looks like a male version of iconic artist Yayoi Kusama, keeps a neat desk and a precise routine. He eats the same meal every day: a bland lunchbox of white rice, beansprouts and bittergourd. He only drinks plain water, from a tumblr. In short, his personality is as straight-laced and neatly boxed as his hairstyle suggests.
The film stands out for the detail in its production design. Bright colors are used boldly and lends a fun and wacky feel. There is a clock reminiscent of the Weasley family's magical clock with a clockhand that denotes activities instead of the time, such as "Lunch" and "Sleep". The clock determines the cadence and flow of the film's timeline, as well as WTF's life.
In the clock, the word 正 is used as a decorative border. 正 means "upright" and "exact" in Chinese. It is also what WTF writes to count how many times the residents in his workplace swear at him (one swear = one stroke of the word). WTF sits at a desk with the word "security" printed in big bold letters, secure in his comfort zone, refusing to break his routine and have lunch with his colleague or go out drinking after work.
The film stylised visuals are supported by cutesy, cartoonish sound design punctuating much of the film and lending a upbeat tempo. It helps that WTF himself looks like a comic character, as well as other characters like the thugs he gets in trouble with or the femme fatale in the bar.
The introduction of magical powers allows WTF to open a lost wallet and literally walk in someone else's shoes. It catapults him into leaving his comfort zone, yet it is also a conscious search for a new name and identity as his name is constantly made fun of for its vulgar connotations.
With his ability to switch identities, WTF finds various lost wallets and has a roulette of experiences as an old woman, a young and cute bartender (as whom he is briefly popular, with the ladies), a maid, a little boy at the playground and so on. The humour is largely derived from the incongruity of a grown man being spoonfed his meals or playing on the flying fox at a playground.
Eventually, the biggest change is not WTF's ability to be a completely different person, but his ability to empathize with those around him. The film humbles with the reminder to step out of one's comfort zone and try to see things from the point of view of those closest to us.
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Written by Jacqueline Lee
For the full list of February 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.