Certain properties in popular culture fasten their fangs on our pants leg and never let go, no matter how we kick and yell. The story of Anna Leonowens
, British tutor to the numerous progeny
, ruler of 19th century Siam, is perhaps the most persistent of these terriers.
It began life as a (possibly fictionalized) diary by its heroine and has since been a novel, a movie, a Broadway musical, a movie version of that musical and an animated feature. It is now back to being a straight movie—without songs, without the Small House of Uncle Thomas ballet (thank God), but with a lot of exotic spectacle and a rather murky colonial confrontation that gives Jodie Foster
, playing Anna, a chance to behave like a slightly prissy
but good-hearted 20th century liberal.
The basic titillation
of the tale is intact in Anna and the King: the grieving widow is, as usual, brought back to life by the affection (which dares not speak its name) that develops between her and the sexy King. Of course, since they started telling and retelling this story, miscegenation
has become a nonstarter
as a cause for sundering
true love. Hence the thought that Anna and the monarch might logically repair
to a quiet room in the palace to relieve their headaches keeps nagging as this movie unfolds.