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josephk
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The Tesseract (2003)
22. Jul 2004 at 11:00
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This is a movie I saw last week at the Fantasia film festival in Montreal. It's a Thai/British co-production, based on a novel by Alex Garland and directed by Oxide Pang. Takes place in Thailand in a hotel, focussing on the parallel stories of three guests and one young Thai boy working at the hotel.

The boy is played by Alexander Rendel, and he speaks English and Thai fluently in the film. He gave a really great performance and I hope we see more of him in the future.

Very difficult to find images of him online. I made these from the official website, using the "print screen" function.

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IMDb spells his name with one L, but on the official website of the film they spell it with two Ls. Not sure which is the correct way. I did searches for both spellings online and he is mentioned both ways several times.

Here is what one reviewer had to say about his performance in the film:

The small kid Wit (Alexander Rendel) is what the hotelís boss has to offer as a substitute for a bell-boy, a cleaning lady and a room service deliverer. He has learnt to speak English through frequent contact with English speaking guests (ĎAre you leaving, lady?) and uses the information thus gathered to search the empty rooms for things he can resell on the black market to supplement his non-existent income.

(...)

The acting is of a good standard all-around, though the small Wit as portrayed by Alexander Rendel impressed me most; he switches between acting in English and in Thai with ease and is completely believable as the streetwise lost boy of Bangkok that does not know any better.


And here is an amusing little tidbit I found about him in an article about Harry Potter being translated into Thai:

Alexander Rendell, a half-Thai half-British child actor, has already read three Harry Potter books and is well into his fourth.

Alex, 10, admits that he had never enjoyed reading books as thick as those in the Harry Potter series, and prefers reading books with "big letters." He was not interested in Harry Potter even when his teacher at Bangkok Pattana school advised him to read it. But when his schoolmates started reading the books, he joined in as well.

"It's funny. I like it,' says Alex. But the title character is not his favourite. "I don't want to be Harry Potter because I don't want to stay with such a bad family as the Dursleys". He says he would rather enjoy playing the part of the owl postman or the wizard.

"He can fly, and it's clever to send him deliver the mail, no matter where the wizard is," he says. And like the characters in the adventures he reads about, Alex loves playing sports, especially football. Alex wishes he one day may attend a match in the Quidditch World Cup, which pits contestants in an airborne basketball- football like game played in the wizard world.

Alex is also trying to read a Thai version of one of the adventures of Harry, "I've only read 20 pages, it's difficult to understand," he says.


It would be worth checking out that movie if you ever get the chance. Alex's role is substantial enough to keep your interest, even if the film also focusses on three other characters. He's very charming and his character is well developped.

*

The film itself has many flaws. Director Oxide Pang goes a little overboard with the stylistic extravaganza. Many slow-motion Matrix-style special effects shot that add nothing to the story. I'm sure the novel must be much better than the book.

The following review nicely sums up my own thoughts about the film and what I thought was wrong with it.

Review by Jason Morehead
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If there's one thing that anyone who has seen a film by Oxide and/or Danny Pang can attest to, they are masters of style. They use every trick of the trade - editing, cinematography, filming techniques, clever special effects, CGI - to give their films a very edgy and stylish feel that is unique in Asian cinema. And "The Tesseract" (which was done by Oxide alone) is probably the most stylish of all of their films, which is quite something since their filmography already includes titles such as "Bangkok Dangerous", "The Eye", and "Infernal Affairs". But while the Pangs' style was often the saving grace of their movies, "The Tesseract" might be one instance where an abundance of style actually hinders the film more than helps it.

Set in the seamy, sweaty Thailand underworld, "The Tesseract" (based on the novel by Alex Garland) sets up 4 unique characters and reveals what happens when their lives are drawn together and collide in the most tragic and violent of ways. There's Sean (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), an aimless drifter who has somehow become involved with a gang and their drug heist. There's the nameless assassin who works for an opposing gang, and who was badly wounded in her last attempt to reclaim the goods. There's a British psychologist (Saskia Reeves) who is interviewing local children about their dreams, and who is also coming to terms with the death of her young son. And finally, there's Wit (Alexander Rendel), a young urchin with a penchant for breaking into hotel rooms and stealing any valuables he finds. One way or another, all of these characters have ended up at the Heaven Hotel, a dilapidated old building where guests just sit and simmer in their rooms, trying to stay cool in the oppressive Bangkok heat.

Those who thought "Memento" was a real mindbender will be in for a treat with "The Tesseract", which becomes so non-linear that I found myself wishing flowcharts had been provided upon entering the theatre. Scenes play out, only to reverse themselves and play again (and again and again) from different angles and perspectives, each time revealing some new hint about the characters and the paths that brought them to where they are now. The film unfolds forwards, backwards, sideways, and at every angle in-between, until the viewer gets lost within a maze of flashbacks, dizzying camerawork (the film's one love scene becomes almost comical as it plays out from every angle imaginable, even upside down), and bullet time.

For example, Sean and Wit bump into each other on the hotel stairs as Sean is heading down to the lobby, where he passes by the psychologist. Perhaps 20-30 minutes later, the film snaps back to that chance meeting, revealing the events that led up to Sean and Wit's encounter (which tell us a bit about them). It then snaps back again, setting up the psychologist's introduction. It then snaps back even further, introducing the assassin and her role in things, as well as just how the drug deal went awry. And finally, after giving you a pseudo-God's eye view of the event, it posits you back where you started as if nothing has happened. And it goes on little trips like this at several times, jumping from point A to point B by way of points D, K, Q, and V until you're almost mad from trying to connect the dots.

Admittedly, it's pretty cool at first. Oxide throws in a lot of visual flair, with enough rapid, blink-and-you'll-miss-it cuts and jumps to unnerve even Darren Aronofsky. And at times, Pang does a good job of showing how something as seemingly miniscule as stealing a camera can lead to a whole world of hurt. But by the time the film nears its inevitable conclusion, it's become much less compelling. I soon found myself wishing for a space, even just 30 seconds, that didn't involve some neat post-"Matrix" or post-"Memento" trick. I found myself suspecting that Pang was juicing things up merely to hide the fact that the film is just not as deep and thought provoking as it claims to be.

"The Tesseract" tries to be a meditation on fate and destiny. Seen from that angle, I can understand some of Pang's reasoning for the film's excessive style - for example, all of those flashbacks within flashbacks try to show how all of the characters' fates are inextricably linked, regardless of their intentions and desires - but the film's philosophizing gets buried beneath its visual clutter (for example, I don't think fate unfolds in slow-motion that much). When the film does take a breather and try to wax philosophical, such as a conversation that occurs late in the film between Wit and female psychologist, it feels rather blatant and awkward, and even laughable.

There is one moment in the film where "The Tesseract" implies that some other force is working behind the scenes. In the film's opening sequence, Sean is lying in his room when men in sunglasses and trenchcoats suddenly materialize within the walls (anyone who has seen "The Eye" will recognize a similar effect taking place during Mun's visions) and start shooting at him. Terrified, Sean tries to dodge the bullets as they streak past and slam into the wall behind. A moment later, the men vanish and there's no sign of any gunplay.

You're left wondering what happened, if a supernatural agency, some space-time anomaly, or even just plain old madness is at work in the building. I have to admit, that scene totally had me hooked. But as the film continues, it seems obvious it was just another excuse to borrow an effect from "The Matrix", and nothing more. Which is a real shame because that's the one scene where Pang's visuals truly enhance the film's mood.

There's no doubt that the Pangs are technically gifted filmmakers, perhaps some of the most technically gifted filmmakers in all of Asia. However, after seeing "The Tesseract", I'm wondering if their skill isn't becoming a crutch for them. I'd love to see one (or both) of them do a film that stripped away the some of the pizzazz, or just found a better way of integrating it, of using their distinctive style to enhance the film rather than show off their skills in the editing room. Perhaps something in the vein of "Donnie Darko", a film that teemed with distinctive visuals but which used them to enhance and support the film's ideas, often in very subtle ways. If anyone could pull off such a movie, I'm certain the Pangs, with their abundance of talent, could.
  
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Re: The Tesseract (2003)
Reply #1 - 22. Jul 2004 at 19:03
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Thanks for mentioning this, joseph.

This is the first I have heard of this film. IMDB notes that Sundance Channel and First Look Home Entertainment are on board, so it looks like it will eventually be readily available in the US. I've added it to my list.  Smiley
  
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Re: The Tesseract (2003)
Reply #2 - 23. Jul 2004 at 02:21
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Thanks for researching all of the interesting information about this one, josephk.  I'd enjoy seeing a film with a boy that amart in it.  Preferring books with big letters is something that those of us with failing eyesight can understand about a child's preferences.   Grin

I like everything you posted here, because it gives us a real understanding of what we'll be getting ourselves into when we get to see this one.  I'll look forward to doing so, just so I can see young Alexander Rendel!  Smiley

Love,
Sir J
  
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Re: The Tesseract (2003)
Reply #3 - 23. Jul 2004 at 07:16
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i haven't read any of garland's books.

his dad's a well-known brit cartoonist - see example above : woodcut priced at £750 from the fine art society..

dad illustrates garland's most recent novel :

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there was a depressing programme about thailand on tv last night : hospitality provided at bangkok hilton.

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Re: The Tesseract (2003)
Reply #4 - 23. Jul 2004 at 11:30
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« Last Edit: 23. Sep 2004 at 09:20 by cal-Q-L8 »  
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Re: The Tesseract (2003)
Reply #5 - 27. Jul 2005 at 21:13
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Despite a name like "Alexander Simon Rendell", this actor seems to be Thai.
  
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Re: The Tesseract (2003)
Reply #6 - 28. Jul 2005 at 23:43
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I read long posts and did not know it is very old posts until after I finish.  Is movie on dvd now?  It do look like a very good film.
  
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Re: The Tesseract (2003)
Reply #7 - 29. Jul 2005 at 05:28
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Yes, it's on DVD.  Why not bookmark some web page so you can look these things up yourself?  For example...
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