Siam? Yes. Anna? Yes. The King? Most certainly. But there, much of the resemblance to things past, stops. For one thing the king is somewhat more credible played by Chow Yun-Fat than, say, Rex Harrison or even Yul Brynner. Brynner, of course, will always be remembered for his bald pate and folded arms.
Getting to know, tra la, the King of Siam in this nonmusical screen adaptation of the many told tale is Jodie Foster as Anna. She is the English school teacher who comes to Siam, sight unseen, to tutor the king's 58 children.
The young widow, who arrives with her son, is anticipating an adventure of sorts, but she truly has no idea what is in store, and she harbors some strong West vs. East convictions. For one thing, she finds the king having 58 children downright uncivil.
Now enter the King Mongkut. He finds his new tutor peculiar, with her prim and proper notions, but he feels certain she will come around to his way of viewing life in general, and him in particular. And thereby lies the conflict of wills at the crux of the story.
Though told without music, this version of the oft told tale more than makes up for the glossy musical version in its thoughtfulness and character development. Both Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat have received accolades from the critics, and the cinematography has come in for praise, as well. The film is directed by Andy Tenant, and is rated PG-13 for "some intense violent sequences."
It starts Thursday, Dec. 30 at Diamond Cinema.