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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
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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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This is the second film of the year (the other being "The Green Mile") that I have seen that I believe will recieve Oscar nominations in several categories, of which, best film, best male and femal actor and best cinematography will be definitely considered.
"Anna and the King" is an epic film about a British woman who accepts an offer to go to Siam (Thailand) to teach western education to the King of Siam's 58 children. Upon reaching Siam, Ms. Leonowens (Jodie Foster) is made to find her way to the King's palace by herself and subsequently made to wait weeks before she is allowed to meet him. Coming from a British background she is appalled by this treatment and decides to take matters into her own hands by bursting into the King's court, breaking every protocol on the way, and boldly confronting King Mongkut (Chow Yun-Fat) about her situation. This obviously does not sit well with the King but at the same time he is intrigued by this woman's boldness and so the story begins about cultural education (both British and Siamese) and a blossoming romance that has you yearning for a happy ending.
Foster plays Anna Leonowens very well and at times makes you hate her for her narrow minded view of the world as she portrays a woman who truely believes that "British teachings are the ways of the world." Her comments about British rule and colonization makes you cringe at times as she comes across as this arrogant, cold woman who believes that she is in Siam to bring culture and wisdom to a backwards country. Foster manages to portray every aspect of this character flawlessly and takes the audience for an emotional rollercoaster from, hate to love to compassion and every emotion in between.
The most notable difference in character development is the portrayal of King Mongkut. Chow Yun-Fat brings a quiet strength and sophistication that was never present in Yul Brynner's portrayal of the King. In this film we are shown a very intelligent man that understands more than he lets on. In fact, he seems to lead Ms. Leonowens around without her really knowing it and in some cases teaches her lessons about the world and how it really is. As the saying goes, "actions speak louder than words" and this is definitely the case for King Mongkut. Fat does not have as many lines as Foster does but he is in as many scenes and in most cases commands more of a presence.
The rest of the cast was excellent as well and there were very few slow points in the film. The colors used were very vibrant and creates a feel of exoticness. As well, the cinematography was incredible. Sweeping shots of the landscape showing the green carpets of the land and the incredible shots of the elaborate palace create an atmosphere of an epic film. Subtitles are used quite a bit but it only adds to the authenticity of the film.
The one thing that I was disappointed in was the fact this movie was based on Ms. Leonowens' diary which may be subject to biased occurances of certain situations or historical inaccuracies.
Overall though, I was thoroughly impressed and entertained with this film. Although Jodie Foster is the top billing name, this film definitely belongs to Chow Yun-Fat and it would be ashame not to see him get an oscar consideration for his performance. He is an accomplished international actor and it seems that Hollywood has finally discovered that. My recommendation, go see this film. You will not be disappointed.
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