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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

DECEMBER 20, 1999: 

ANNA AND THE KING. For decades, the true story of the English governess Anna Leonowens, a widow hired to teach the 58 children of Siam's King Mongkut, captured the American imagination. The first Anna and the King of Siam appeared on the screen in 1946, starring Rex Harrison, followed in 1956 with the musical version The King and I, starring Yul Brynner. It was Brynner who made the role famous, both in a television series called Anna and the King in 1972, and a reprisal in 1982 of the Broadway role he practically created. In fact, it seemed when Brynner died of lung cancer in 1985, the visionary king died with him. Enter Chow Yun-Fat and Jodie Foster, who with relative newcomer Andy Tennant, return to the tradition begun in 1944 by novelist Margaret Landon. Like the book, this new interpretation of the public events and private relationship between Anna and King Mongut in the 1860s extrapolates from Leonowens' own writings. The result is no less a fiction than any of its predecessors, but it's an inspired telling lavishly set in a Malaysia transformed to look like a world untouched by time. Unburdened by technical limitations or rigid social conventions, this modern tale may shock those who recall a gentler plot. But it may also win new converts to a story so controversial in its day, the government of Siam tried to purchase every edition of Leonowens' books (The English Governess at the Siamese Court and The Romance of the Harem) to prevent their distribution. -- Mari Wadsworth


DEUCE BIGALOW: MALE GIGOLO. With Deuce Bigalow, Rob Schneider tosses another nugget onto the Saturday Night Live cast members' filmic dung heap, delivering scatology and slapstick that are less digestible than a 9-year-old fruit cake. Your $7.75 is more nobly spent on just about anything -- a doggie sweater, head cheese, a football-shaped remote control, or better yet, a contribution to the local food bank. -- Jack Vaughn


THE GREEN MILE. One of the most exquisitely sad movies you'll ever see, The Green Mile is the story of an uncommonly compassionate prison guard (Tom Hanks) who presides over an extraordinary conjunction of people and events on death row in Alabama, 1935. Adapted from the 1996 serial novel of the same name, this turns out to be one of Stephen King's finer moments as a storyteller: an evolving, compelling narrative on justice, judgment, violence and empathy. Clocking in at just under three hours, this tale of a simple man sentenced to die for the murder of two small children questions our basest fears and greatest hopes for human capability, in a story that's equally disarming in its humor and cruelty. (Conceptually, it's something of a cross between Powder and Dead Man Walking.) Expertly cast, wonderfully acted and well-paced despite its length, The Green Mile will have the greatest impact on those who see it first, and hear about it after. Also starring Michael Clarke Duncan, with a diverse cast including Bonnie Hunt, Gary Sinise and Harry Dean Stanton. -- Mari Wadsworth


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