Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5  
Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (2003)

The motto of Cooper-Schoedsack Productions was 'The Three Ds': Keep it Distant, Difficult, and Dangerous.

In "Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness", the follow up to "Grass: A Nation's Battle For Life", the legendary filmmakers satisfied all three demands with an exotic travelogue of life in the jungles of Siam [now Thailand].

The main focus of "Chang" is a Siamese hunter named Kru and his family (his wife, children, livestock and pet monkey), who live in the midst of the jungle. They survive on their pitiful rice crop while trying to avoid becoming dinner to the various predators who prowl the undergrowth.

These include a leopard, tiger, various snakes and a rampaging herd of "Chang" (elephants), who leave a startling trail of destruction in their wake.

Like "Grass", "Chang" tries to turn anthropological investigation into mythmaking, with the battles between the Siamese hunters and the jungle's more dangerous inhabitants turning into yet another testimony to the indefatigable human spirit, with more than a little reference to the American frontier.

Yet despite these similarities to "Grass", "Chang" is a startling leap forward in terms of narrative and technical ability.

It offers not only a hero for the audience to identify with, but also lots of fancy camera tricks (including a tiger leaping into the camera lens with its teeth gnashing hungrily) and several comic asides from the mischievous Bimbo the monkey.

Fudging documentary verisimilitude in favour of a show stopping trawl through the Siamese jungle, the film's place in cinema history ultimately owes little to "Grass" and more to the bring-'em-back-alive exoticism of Cooper and Schoedsack's later "King Kong" (1933).

Relying on obviously rehearsed scenes and plenty of staged moments, "Chang" is a truly fascinating example of the way in which 20s Hollywood reworked the documentary genre for the sake of creating popular entertainment.

End Credits

Director: Merian C Cooper, Ernest B Schoedsack

Writer: Merian C Cooper, Ernest B Schoedsack, Achmed Abdullah

Stars: Kru , Chantui , Nah , Ladah

Genre: Documentary

Length: 69 minutes

Original: 7 March 2003

Cinema: 7 March 2003

Country: USA

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