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Widowed early with a young son (Tom Felton), Anna (Jodie Foster) leaves Victorian England to take up a post as tutor to the 58 children of King Mongkut of Siam (Chow Yun-Fat). The contrast in cultures creates conflict as this strong and intelligent woman refuses to abandon her own principles while respecting the King's enlightened view. Anna's impact becomes more apparent as time goes on, while the King's impact on her also grows, until there is something akin to a certain love between them. The relationships between Anna and the court also take on a life of their own, against the growing military threat to Siam. When betrayed, the King tries to save his family while his enemies aim to overthrow the throne; Anna is again instrumental in his life, and in altering the course of history.

"If you don't want to think about any of its political, racial and sexual undercurrents, Anna and the King is a delightful and charming romance novel come to life. For my money this is the best screen version of the based-on-truth story told in Anna and the King of Siam (1946) and sung in The King and I (1956) but it still has the same perverse underbelly that makes its status as a romance perennial somewhat mystifying.

Here's a widowed English teacher who packs up her son and servants (her soldier husband was stationed in India) and arrives in Siam in the 1860s to educate the son of god-like King Mongkut. The monarch turns out to have 23 wives, 42 concubines, 58 children and 10 on the way. They say a bad-ass always makes a girl's heart beat faster, which must be why Anna hangs around to educate the extended brood and tame the beast who sired them.

Jodie Foster plays Anna with an impeccable British accent but her casting is problematic because she carries such a strong modern woman persona into this world where females are little more than ornaments. You can almost sense Jodie Foster holding her tongue while Anna Leonowens does the talking. Although miscast, Foster is such a fine actress she manages to get away with it, just.

Much more successful is Chow Yun-Fat as the randy king - who better to play Mongkut than movie royalty whose charm makes Anna's passion completely believable - even if he does keep a stable of sexual objects and allows the slaughter of innocents from time to time.

Before the film is over Anna has opened Mongkut's eyes to selected western sensibilities, fallen deeply in love with a man she cannot have and saved his life by foiling a dastardly plot to overthrow him. None of it is terribly believable but it's done so lavishly (production design by Luciana Arrighi) and filmed so beautifully (photography by Caleb Deschanel) it's easy to surrender to its seductions."
Richard Kuipers

Published May 10, 2001

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia

(US) (1999)

CAST:Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Bai Ling, Tom Felton, Syey Alwi, Randall Duk
Kim, Lian Kay Siu.
DIRECTOR: Andy Tennant

DVD DISTRIBUTOR:20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: April 20, 2001

SPECIAL FEATURES: Widescreen (2.35:1), Director's commentary, HBO Behind the Scenes Featurette, Theatrical Trailer, Music Video "How Can I Not Love You" by Joey Enriquez. Language: English. Subtitles: English, English (HOH), Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish.

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