“IN SEARCH OF THE DRAGON’S TALE”
Directed and Produced by See Wan Kei and Haymann Lau
for Flying Dragon Productions
SCENE 1 - Opening: Congee Restaurant
Busy medium and close-up shots (MS, CU) of the interior of a Congee restaurant in Hong Kong. Lots of action as people eat lunch. As the last of the congee bowls arrives the camera goes to Medium Wide (MW) shot, in which we see an old lady waitress. The narrator asks her a question.
All activity comes to an abrupt halt and everyone looks at the camera.
NAR: Excuse me! Excuse me! Excuse me! Excuse me!!!
NAR: Excuse me, how much is a bowl of fish congee these days?
NAR: How much was it in 1960?
WAITRESS:I don't know.
Cut to MAURICE CHAN receiving a bowl of steaming congee from waitress.
NAR: In the year 1960, a bowl of fish congee cost around $1.50.
MAURICE: I don't really like congee. (VOT)
SCENE 2 - Introducing MAURICE CHAN
MAURICE's head on baby picture with special effect.
NAR: MAURICE was unaware of this price because this was the year he was born.
Cut to busy lunchtime Central with MAURICE. The shot is timelapsed but MAURICE is standing still.
NAR: MAURICE CHAN, telephone operator, street musician, accomplished guitarist and flutist.
Cut to MAURICE sitting at home with a cow hand puppet.
MAURICE (yells): AND A WILD MAN!!
NAR: And a wild man.
SCENE 3 - MAURICE on Swing Singing Silly Song;
MAURICE Family Interviews
MAURICE singing a ridiculous version of a popular kung fu folk song on a swing in Morse Park near the remains of the Walled City, with shots of people engaged in various activities in the park, panning to some old folks being driven away by his silliness.
NAR: When we first saw MAURICE, we thought he was only a beggar or street person. In time, he’d blown our preconceptions to bits. So much so that we were left asking the question: “What has shaped this man?”
When we discovered that MAURICE was born and brought up in the Walled City of Kowloon, an area in Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty, we thought that we had stumbled onto the answer.
His reply was to again challenge our preconceptions, only this time he took us on a journey to a place once dubbed the sleaziest place in Hong Kong; to a world of ordinary people living extraordinary lives.
The Walled City had been demolished in 1992.
But not the people who lived there.
One woman who remembers MAURICE growing up is MAURICE's mum, MRS CHAN.
Cut to interview with MAURICE’s mother, MRS CHAN, and MAURICE in their home.
MAURICE'S MUM: Oh yes, I remember him growing up. It's true he never really cared for congee. What he really loved was girls.
MAURICE: I already began to womanize in my mid-teens. I‘d chat them up everywhere in the street; and I’d end up getting somewhere with them.
MAURICE'S MUM: He was amourous of many girls, trying to seduce them with his guitar playing. But they never had mutual feelings for him.
MAURICE: To be in love with two girls at the same time would be such a hassle. I’d never do that. (Sighs) You know how difficult it is to handle two women.
MAURICE'S MUM: Because he had some difficulty with his legs, it was difficult for the girls to like him.
MAURICE: Once I went to Japan as one of the representatives of the handicapped from Hong Kong. I got to know a long-haired girl during the tour. I found her to be very good-natured. Although she had difficulty with her arms, she still volunteered to work as a helper, pushing patients in wheelchairs. She also admired me for my flute-playing. One night she was suddenly admitted to the hospital with stroke and I saw her pass away. This made me feel that life was so short; we’d never know when our lives would come to an end. Therefore, I’ve learned that we have to cherish people around us.
Cut to MAURICE'S MUM by the North Gate of Kowloon Walled City. She brushes her hand down side of lettering. Writes characters: Kowloon Walled City.
MAURICE'S MUM: Ah, those were some days!
(GFX: CU of North gate lettering. Light bursts from inside and zaps us into history of Kowloon Walled City.)
SCENE 4 - Introducing Postman Lam Po Chun & Walled City of Kowloon; Hooker Story & Exotic Shows
Interview with Postman LAM PO CHUN, formerly responsible for the Kowloon Walled City district, in present-day Kowloon City Park surroundings.
POSTMAN: My name is LAM PO CHUN. I am 36 years of age. I was responsible for delivering mail in the Walled City from 1980 to 1990.
(Aerial footage and GFX of the Walled City of Kowloon.)
NAR: Measuring no more than 100 x 200 metres, with a ratio of citizens to postmen being 40,000 to 1, the Walled City of Kowloon was far from spacious. It looked like one large block of buildings. Some say it looked as though it were a living, breathing creature. This was MAURICE’s home.
Panning along wall and gate of present-day Walled City ending at postman.
POSTMAN: I had the honour of having worked there. Even now, whenever I pass by the remains of the walls, it reminds me of my Walled City days. The place behind me is where I’ve worked for more than 10 years.
Once I had a lunch appointment with my coach. As I was wandering in the street of the Walled City looking for him, I spotted an old lady sitting. I asked her if she’d seen my coach. She kept murmuring "Postmen, 50!" I was puzzled and asked her, "What postmen 50?". Later on I realized that she was a hooker and she meant she’d charge postmen $50.
MAURICE: I was brought up in the Walled City as a child. I remember a theatre called Sun Wah Sing, which showed 8 mm blue movies and live exotic dance.
MOONCAKES: My good self saw this show out of curiosity only once. There were some blue movies and so on.....
MAURICE: I remember that viewers gathered at a popular hangout called Yung Sheu Tau to be driven to the Walled City to watch the shows.
MOONCAKES: You know, this place was “unregulated for three”. One could find all kinds of deviant activities under the sun in this place, such as gambling.
MAURICE: They purchased tickets with which they could see as many shows as they desired.
MOONCAKES: Out of all the exotic dance shows, I’ve been to one in which the women stripped naked in their performance. However, as I heard from the folks, sometimes there were live shows of men and women engaging in sex on stage. Yet I’ve never seen any live sex show; I just heard about it. Viewers would sit in rows. Those who failed to get a ticket would sit at the back. Normally there’d be no background music.
MAURICE: I remember some Indian folks asking me where Sun Wah Sing was, and I’d point it out for them saying, "It is in there!"
MAURICE: Perhaps this was their interest.
MOONCAKES: It was very sleazy.
SCENE 5 - Paper Boat in Gutter
We have several shots of rain in different locations. Finally we concentrate on a paper boat floating by in the gutter.
MAURICE: I remember a gutter next to where I lived as a boy. I used to sit by the gutter. Since it was a low-lying area, sometimes the whole place could be swarmed with dirty water, especially when it rained. At times like that, I’d fold paper boats and let them flow on flood water, because it was such good fun!
SCENE 6 - Subway Jazz Jam with MAURICE, Jeff and Daryl
Central Star Ferry walkway: MAURICE playing the guitar, his friends play along with him. After a time we cut to JEFF’s interview, with many cutaway life shots of Hong Kong life in-between.
JEFF: When I met MAURICE he wasn’t living in the Kowloon Walled City anymore. In 1984 I was still a student. He came to our school to teach students music. From being teacher and student, we became friends.
Many people find him weird.
I know that he’s been around in many sleazy places............
and is helping a nightclub lady repay her debt.
Cutaway to MAURICE’s family on this point. They wholeheartedly and in unison agree MAURICE is stupid on this point.
MAURICE'S MUM: I love him very much but I think he’s very stupid to help anyone with money.
MAURICE'S BROTHER: Mum’s right!
JEFF: If you are his family and friends you wouldn’t approve of his paying other people's debt in any circumstances, even in business ............
As to why I can be good friends with him even when some people consider him to be living a far from clean life, I say that one should accept someone as a good friend, and not a as an idol. He’s a human and humans have weaknesses. What’s most likable about him is actually his sometimes ridiculous and contradictory behaviour. He’s also likable for his easy-going personality.
What friends can give in addition to family and relatives is long-term mutual spiritual support, which is exactly what sustains our relationship.
There are of course both happy and unhappy moments when it comes to performing music in the streets of Hong Kong. The best moment is when girls appreciate your talent. This is what we musicians need. We’re in a proper profession. We aren’t engaged in any sleazy or unlawful activity. Yet we’re often chased off by people in the street...... I’ve even been chased off by the authorities who used walkie-talkies to hit me! I’d usually refrain from arguing with them by just leaving the scene.
SCENE 7 - Restaurant Scene with MAURICE & Students
MAURICE and JEFF relax in a busy Chinese restaurant after the performance with guitar students B LEUNG and LEE WAI, discussing Chinese and Western music.
B LEUNG: I noticed that your performance just now was quite special. One of you played the Er-hu and one jammed with the guitar.
MAURICE: Today was quite special. We didn’t expect to run into Daryl. We expected to play more conventional music. What we ended up playing was rather wild, crazy "Chinese music".
JEFF: Chinese Er-hu and Western blues can make similar sounds. Black musicians express their melancholy feelings through blues music, while Chinese Er-hu can also sound quite sad. In short, once you find your mood you’ll be able to play it naturally.
MAURICE: It can sound quite similar to traditional tunes from the southern part of China.
JEFF: You can say that it’s quite similar to ancient Chinese chants, since it repeats the same basic patterns, with which you could sing whatever you wanted. What do you think?
B LEUNG: Before this, I didn’t believe that one can play the guitar and the Er-hu in harmony. Western instruments should be used to play Western music and Chinese instruments used to play Chinese music.
MAURICE: I think that someone who is too stringent with rules of the game might not accept playing traditional Chinese music and classical Western music outside of their experience or outside of their domain. If you breach these rules, you aren’t playing what is accepted as Chinese or Western music.
JEFF: I wonder how the environment had affected your music?
MAURICE: It inevitably had an impact on me. As a kid in the Kowloon Walled City I lived a simple and poor life then, so my playing wasn’t sophisticated.
JEFF: Did you play the guitar then?
MAURICE: Yes, I used to play popular tunes such as “Today”. One's music would become as simple and direct. In short, music can’t be separated from living and lifestyle.
SCENE 8 - Performance of Traditional Chinese Instruments
in Kowloon Walled City
Cut to a group of Walled City residents playing traditional Chinese tunes with traditional Chinese musical instruments in the Walled City.Click here for second part of the script