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   ANNA AND THE KING (1999) 

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CAST
Jodie Foster
Chow Yun-Fat
Ling Bai
Tom Felton
Syed Alwi
Randall Duk Kim
Kay Siu Lim
Melissa Campbell
Keith Chin

DIRECTED BY
Andy Tennant

PURCHASE


DVD



Soundtrack




Original Novel




Time: 147 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: History/Drama/Romance

Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction.


I originally wanted to see this film in the theater mainly because I love historical pictures and will see anything with Jodie Foster in it. She's a brilliant actress who almost always picks interesting roles in very good films. Her role in ANNA AND THE KING continues her streak. Not only is this a beautifully shot story, it's an intriguing one full of romance, politics, sacrifice and courage. She could do no better in the co-star department, squaring off against the mesmerizing Chow Yun-Fat. I don't see many foreign films because I hate to read while watching a movie, but I will definitely go out of my way to see more of Chow Yun-Fat's work. There's no need for Foster to make you believe her character's in love with the king, because you'll fall easily under his spell as well. Yun-Fat's performance is powerful, loving, romantic, humorous and intelligent. He plays the perfect man and the perfect king. I would dare any woman to resist him...even one as hard-hearted as Anna.

The film opens with the arrival of Anna Leonowens, a British widow who has come to Siam to teach the King's children the ways of the West. She initially looks down on the country and its inhabitants believing them to be barbaric and uneducated. What she finds is a fascinating world of culture and refinement. Her abrupt and demanding personality annoys the king at first, but he is soon entranced by her intelligence and honesty. He knows the world is changing and that he must change as well in order for his kingdom to survive without foreign intervention. Even though she was brought there merely to teach, Anna soon finds herself enraptured with the people and their plights. Her ideas and constant intervention in local affairs causes much consternation for the King, but he finds himself unable to be angry at her for long. Mainly, because she's usually right and he's never encountered anyone, especially a woman, like her before.


"Life is precious, especially when you're a Christian and only allowed one."

What she learns is that the King just wants what's best for his people and being a ruler isn't an easy job. Though he is generally beloved, there are forces from within and without who are trying to depose him and destroy his family. Life in Siam moves at it's own pace and Anna soon begins to understand and enjoy the ways of these people. She even starts to let her hair down a little, beginning to enjoy life again after the tragic death of her husband. There's an ever deepening attraction between her and the King and though she enjoys his company, its fairly clear that their relationship will never move past friendship. She is a one man kind of woman and he's a man with responsibilities he cannot disown. Not even for love. When the lives and future of the King and Siam are put at stake, Anna puts aside her feelings and joins forces with the royal family for survival. In the end, it's her English fortitude and never-surrender attitude that enables the King and his children to survive. Though they cannot truly express their love, the relationship forged between Anna and the King touches the lives of all around them and changes the future of the kingdom forever.

This story may have been told many times before, but never quite like this. ANNA AND THE KING is an amazing historical epic that draws its audience into a world that one can only dream about. The production design and locations are awesome in scale and breathtaking in beauty. You are immersed in this time of great opulence and political turmoil without ever losing sight of what the film is about. How two vastly different people found love in an impossible situation. They couldn't have come from more opposite worlds, yet they found common ground and similar ideas. The film is as much about accepting other cultures and traditions as it is about love. I have no idea how accurate the history is, but it was fascinating. The film gives just enough politics of the region at the time to get you interested without overwhelming the viewer or taking the focus away from the main story. The attention to detail in the costumes, sets and artwork is stunning. The chemistry between Foster and Yun-Fat electrifying. He may be a king and she a mere schoolteacher, but they are equals in every way that count.

ANNA AND THE KING is a first-class, gorgeous tale that I think should have been more popular than it was. Maybe people think they've heard the story before. That may be, but this version is definitely worth a look. Unless, of course, you hate historical romances. The film is at times strident and overly dramatic, but overall it's an exquisite peak into a time gone by. If you are a fan of either Foster of Yun-Fat you should see this film. They make what could've been unrealistic romantic drivel into an enjoyable love story for the ages.


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