Anna and the King (1999)

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Released 17-Apr-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Andy Tennant (Director)
Featurette-1.78:1, non 16x9, 14:04 minutes
Music Video-How Can I Not Love You (1.78:1, non 16x9, 4:24 minutes)
Theatrical Trailer-(1.78:1, non 16x9, 2:43 minutes)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 142:04
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:47) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Andy Tennant
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Jodie Foster
Chow Yun-Fat
Bai Ling
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music George Fenton


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Anna And The King was inspired by the best-seller novel by Margaret Landon, published in 1944. The novel was based on the true story of an English woman called Anna Leonowens who, in the 1860s, was teacher to the children of the King of Siam (modern-day Thailand). This novel has been made into a movie at least three times: in 1946 it was a movie called Anna and the King, starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison; in 1956 it was the musical The King & I, starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brunner; and in 1999 it was Anna And The King again, this time starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat. Two of these three movies are being released on DVD on the same day, so it seems appropriate to include in the reviews of these DVDs a comparison of two versions of the same story (you'll find the other review here, and I suggest you read it first).

    Interestingly, unlike The King & I, this movie says that it is based on the diaries of Anna Leonowens. Back when I studied a little bit of history the lecturer emphasized the importance of getting to primary sources - relying on the original words, rather than those of other writers. It sounds like the screenwriter for this movie has tried to get to the primary source in this case - this is to be applauded.

    There are some strong similarities between the plot of The King & I, and Anna And The King (it would be disturbing if there were not), but there are some interesting differences. Both begin in 1862, with the arrival in Bangkok by ship of Anna Leonowens and her son. In Anna And The King, she is accompanied by two Indian servants, in The King & I she is not. Her first encounter is with the Prime Minister, and in both cases it is a cool one. She appears at an audience with the king, and reacts strongly when the audience ends without reaching her. One of the strong points of contention is over the house she was promised. In The King & I it is a considerable time before she gets her house, and she uses numerous stratagems to remind the King of the fact. In Anna And The King, she gets her house rather more easily. In The King & I, the first school lesson becomes a song (Getting to Know You). In Anna And The King, it involves a scuffle between her son and the crown prince, which becomes a test of wills between her and the prince. I was amused to note that both Deborah Kerr and Jodie Foster played Anna Leonowens as a redhead - appropriate to her temper, perhaps? I was also amused to note that Jodie Foster's hoop skirts were of considerably smaller circumference.

    Anna And The King features the same elaborate dinner that is a centrepiece of The King & I, but the entertainment provided is very different. In The King & I, there is a presentation of Uncle Tom's Cabin as interpreted by Lady Tuptim. In Anna And The King, the King's children sing "A Bicycle Built For Two". Yul Brunner and Deborah Kerr dance what I believe is a polka to "Shall We Dance". Chow Yun Fat and Jodie Foster dance a waltz.

    Having mentioned Uncle Tom's Cabin, I should remark that the book appears quite differently in the two movies. In The King & I, Anna gives it to Lady Tuptim. In Anna And The King she gives it to the crown prince, and the king teaches her a lesson about it.

    The politics and intrigue is more sinister in Anna And The King. Although the plot thread concerning the traitor/usurper is completely fabricated, it is fact that Siam had 55 civil wars in the 19th Century, so it is not unreasonable.

    It is not surprising that Anna And The King is more realistic - it is hardly realistic to burst into song at intervals - but the realism goes deeper than that. In The King & I, Yul Brunner plays an arrogant and arbitrary man, and something of a buffoon. The ending of The King & I strongly suggests that the king dies of a broken heart. Chow Yun Fat's King is a strong man, but neither arrogant nor arbitrary. He is a complex man, loving his children, having visionary plans for advancing his country, and yet realistic about the amount of change he can force. A number of events make far more sense in Anna And The King. The most obvious of these is the thread involving Lady Tuptim. Yul Brunner's King is about to whip her when Anna intervenes; resulting in a shattering of the king's ego, which seemed excessive even as I watched it. In Anna And The King, Tuptim is caned during her trial (there is a trial, not summary judgement), and Anna intervenes. Chow Yun Fat's King is not present during the trial. He remonstrates with Anna afterwards, and points out that he cannot act to ameliorate Tuptim's punishment after Anna's outburst - this seems far more reasonable, and shows that the King is quite aware of the limits on his ability to effect change.

    I found Anna And The King far more satisfying dramatically, and not offensive in the way I thought The King & I could be seen. I wonder if that indicates how much times have changed between the making of the two films? In the commentary, the director mentions that The King & I is still banned in Thailand, but Anna And The King has been viewed by members of the Thai royal family, who unofficially approved of it.

    I liked this movie. If you like historical drama, then you may like it too. This DVD gives you every chance to do so, because it is superbly made.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Not a lot to say about this - they have done a lovely job of transferring this movie. I wish they could do as good a job on everything.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which is the theatrical aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a sharp, detailed transfer with excellent shadow detail, even in scenes set at dusk. There is no low-level noise to be seen.

    There is a lot of colour in this movie. Deep greens feature in the Thai (Malaysian) jungle, strong reds and golds feature in a lot of the clothing. The palette is rich, but not oversaturated.

    This film is artefact free, as you might expect from a movie made a little over a year ago.

    There are a number of scenes where the dialogue is in Thai. At these times, English subtitles appear, if you have no other subtitles displayed. This is good, because a couple of vital plot points are revealed during these sequences.

    This disc is an RSDL-formatted disc, with the layer change at 64:47. It is well placed, and not at all disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This is a good soundtrack, presenting a marvellous audio transfer, and is of reference quality.

    There are two audio tracks on this DVD. The soundtrack is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1. The Audio Commentary is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded. I listened to both soundtracks.

    Dialogue is clear and readily understood. Subtitles (in English) were provided for most of the dialogue in Thai. These subtitles were not burned into the film, so watching with subtitles in another language was fine.

    There were no audio sync problems. The commentary mentioned a fair bit of ADR work, but it has been done without visible sync issues.

    The score is epic, as is appropriate for this film. George Fenton has done a good job of fitting the music to the mood of each scene. I didn't notice the music the first time through, which I consider a tribute to his work - it is inappropriate music that is most noticeable. As is common in modern films, the feature song ran over the end credits - it was the only piece of the music I didn't like.

    The surround speakers were used extensively for ambient sound. At one point I was sure that the rain in the film was being supplemented by nature outside - I paused the movie and discovered that it was an illusion - that's how immersive the surround sound feels.

    The sound extends well into the deep ranges. The subwoofer is used to support both the music and the sound effects, but is integrated perfectly - at no point was I aware of the subwoofer as such.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras on this disc are in line with what I'd expect from a recent film.

Menu

    The menu is excellent, with nicely animated transitions, and music underneath. It is 16x9 enhanced, and easy and clear to operate.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is good quality, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound.

Featurette - Behind the Scenes

    This is a 14 minute featurette, which is the expected extended promo for the movie. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, not 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital Stereo sound. There are some interesting snippets of information included in it. It is worth viewing.

Director's Commentary - Andy Tennant

    This commentary is one of the best I've listened to. Andy Tennant is clearly watching the film as he records his commentary, and he has a lot to say about the making of the film, about the historical events portrayed (and where the script deviates from history), about some of the problems they experienced, and about the cast and crew. There are occasional pauses, where he is watching the movie with you, and the movie soundtrack volume rises during those pauses. He is honest about some of the things that didn't go as planned, and admits that a couple of the scenes deviate considerably from the historical record - the climactic bridge scene in particular, but he also describes some of the trouble they went to to ensure that the film was considerably more accurate than The King & I.

    I recommend that you listen to this commentary after watching the film. It's a big commitment - the film is 142 minutes long - but if you have an interest in film-making, and the truth behind this story, then you will get a lot out of this commentary.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    If you simply read the specifications for the R1 disc, and compare them with the specifications for the R4, you would get a list like:

    The Region 4 disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on:     All six behind-the-scenes featurettes on the R1 DVD have been cut from the same material as the single one we got - each one focussing on a different part of it. On the R4 disc we get a single featurette that covers all of the material once - on the R1 they get a mish-mash that covers some of the material repeatedly. I was unable to find a single scene in the Region 1 featurettes that was not included in the Region 4 featurette, so I would not count that against the R4.

    The deleted scenes make interesting viewing, although I agree that they were rightly removed - they can be viewed with or without the director's commentary. I would have liked to have had them on the R4 disc. In fact, I'd rather have them than the featurette.

    In the end it comes down to a decision as to whether you consider the deleted scenes are more important to you than the PAL transfer. I feel that you may watch the movie many times, but you'll probably only watch the deleted scenes once - I'd award the gold-plated doohickey to the Region 4.

Summary

    Anna And The King is an interesting movie, rather more realistic than its predecessor. I liked it, even though I didn't expect to. It helped that it was presented in such an immaculate fashion.

    The video quality is superb, and is of reference quality.

    The audio quality is superb, and is of reference quality.

    The extras are good, although I would have liked to have the deleted scenes, too. The director's commentary is very good indeed.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, April 16, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics matte white screen with a gain of 1.0 (280cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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