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This is the story of Anna Leonowens, the English schoolteacher who came to Siam in the 1860s to teach the children of King Mongkut. She becomes involved in his affairs, from the tragic plight of a young concubine to trying to forge an alliance with Britain to a war with Burma that is orchestrated by Britain. In the meantime, a subtle romance develops between them. Written by
The King's favorite daughter, Princess Fa-Ying (Melissa Campbell), dies of cholera. Yet she appears after her death with the rest of the royal family briefly aboard the royal steamboat as the King attempts to take the royal family to safety from the insurgents marching toward the palace. Then, after the ship lands, the King and family pray at a shrine to Buddha, and Princess Fa-Ying is again seen with the rest of the children as the insurgents approach from the other side of the river. See more »
She was the first English woman I had ever met. And it seemed to me she knew more about the world than anyone. But it was a world Siam was afraid would consume them. The monsoon winds had whispered her arrival like a coming storm. Some welcomed the rain, but others feared a raging flood. Still she came, unaware of the suspicion that preceded her. But it wasn't until years later, that I began to appreciate how brave she was, and how alone she must have felt. An English woman. The ...
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Lush, epic, sweeping, entrancing. It's all here. If there's any "justice" in Hollywood, this one should be Oscar bait for at least cinematography, costuming, musical score and the magnum-magnificent presence of some dude I never heard of before I saw AATK -- Chow Yun Fat. Now, I have been informed that he is the Coolest Actor in the World (according to L.A. Times). I can see this dark, cool elegance in his breathtaking performance as a real and fascinating historic figure, King Mongkut, who in actuality learned Latin, astronomy and memorized major parts of both Bible and Koran while a Buddhist monk. Contrary to the buffoonery of Yul Brynner's overblown portrayal, Chow opens for us an entirely new cultural door, brushing for the eager audience a portrait of a monarch of absolutely power who wields it so well that he is unafraid of gentleness, hugging his enchanting, on-screen children without reserve and finding himself mystifyingly in love with a foreign woman he cannot tame or bed because of the constraint of the times. The betrayal, revolution and barbarity of l9th century Thailand (Siam) become pale watercolor in comparison to the bold red and orange of unresolved love and religious and cultural interplay represented by Foster and Chow. We fear that more of these mesmerizing moments between the two lie on the editing room floor. However, Chow's sensitive face and body language reflect this inner evolution and bittersweet turmoil far better than does Jodie Foster's rather wooden performance accompanied by a troubling British accent. I respect Foster's talent immensely, though it shone through only intermittently, blossoming only when she softens to the King's patient (sometimes stormy) friendship. The indelible etching of the film comes during a non-speaking sequence involving the disposition of Tuptim and Balat which sub-plot likely was originally meant to be a subtle reflection of the untenable love affair between Anna and Mongkut. This is so well-edited and scored that it's going to be hard to forget. When the King kneels in agonized prayer before his talismanic Emerald Buddha, one is compelled to conclude that he is in anguish -- not only over what's happening to his concubine and his throne -- but the fact that his actions necessitated by politics will also probably forever separate him from his tea-tray-tossing Anna and all she believes in and has worked for in his country. Okay, so I cried in several places (something I nearly never do) -- the mark of a film which has accomplished its goal, i.e., the moving of hearts. I was fascinated with this movie. It made me read and research a part of the world I've generally ignored, and whole new palace gates have opened. Sumptuous and rich it is; and award-winning it should be, but the sun-star opulence of this new guy, Chow, is the stellar pin on that film curtain. Thanks, Mr. Tennant. And thank you, Mr. Chow.
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