Pastiche is the debut short film outing by Louis Chan, which looks at a few days in the life of wannabe boxer and weed addict, X (yes, that is his name), whereby he gets high, buys a boxing dummy, gets high, sells some drugs, meets a random woman on a rooftop, gets high, pisses off a drug dealer, and then gets killed. Oh yeah, did I mention that this is a student film?
Overall, there are a lot of positives to take away for the director. He has created a film that, although far, too long for a short film, has a lot of good scenes. For example, the randomness of X meeting the woman on the rooftop is quite nice and oddly memorable, and often the dialogue has realism without being too over the top. Also, for a college production, this can be held in quite high esteem.
However, there are elements that need to be addressed.
Firstly, the film is often quite pretentious. I can appreciate that, as a pastiche, it is trying to imitate other filmmakers. However, why would I watch an apparent imitation of La Haine, for example, when I can just watch La Haine itself? Therefore watching a Tarantino film (True Romance, but a good effort at disguising it), quoting Taxi Driver, and having a credits sequence that, in many ways, is similar to many in The Wire, is, well, just blah. The film could easily have had a voice; it just needed to find it.
…His bodyguards are cardboard cut-outs of a 1920’s gangster film…
Secondly, and this is completely subjective, but there is no need for the inexplicable intercut between black and white and colour. Putting “FIN” just before the title sequence is just annoying. And really, there is no plot. There are random characters added for realistic effect, but due to lack of story, I felt nothing for the character and the secondary characters were far too two-dimensional. There’s a villain whose only role it is, is to be a villain. His bodyguards are cardboard cut-outs of a 1920’s gangster film.
Finally, the film falls foul of the “well, we shot it so we might as well use it” rule of thumb that so often plagues filmmakers at all levels. At one point we follow X’s (also, I forgot. Give him a name. It was cool in Layer Cake, but that’s it) character with a steadi-cam shot for what seems like an age as he goes to the shop to buy milk (sigh, Leon) and then cut to him drinking it. There are times where he is watching TV statically, and the camera doesn’t move, and we’re all sat watching it, losing our minds.
…He has a good skill with dialogue, and interesting characters…
It does seem like more negatives can be taken from this film than positives. Which is good, as it will hopefully allow the director to do better with his next outing. He has a good skill with dialogue, and interesting characters, but there is a definite necessity for him to harness that talent and create something that is truly his own.