Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Hot Docs Mini Review: Tchoupitoulas


Directed by Bill and Turner Ross’ Tchoupitoulas (pronounced “chop-ih-TOOL-us”) plays more like a tranquil dream than a straight forward documentary. The film follows the Zander brothers, Bryan, Kentrell, and William, as they experience the sights and sounds of the New Orleans’ night life. After missing the last ferry ride home, the boys are forced to extend their impromptu tour of the city. Although the film centers around the three Zander brothers, the youngest sibling, William, is clearly the one the Ross brothers are the most fascinated with. William is full of childhood innocence and has big dreams of being everything from an NFL Player to an architect. He is always trying to outdo his older brothers despite not having a real understanding of how the world actual works. It is this childlike sense of wonder that the Ross brothers want to give New Orleans in Tchoupitoulas.

The city is seen as an endless place of excitement, and even mystery, as it is filled with music and unique individuals. The film does a good job of showing the diversity of the city as the Ross brothers document everything from the Mardi Gras parades to the drunkard on a bench hitting on a woman. The mixture of images and sounds really help to play up the dream-like feel of the film. While the film is fascinating, it does have some moments that unintentionally break up the dreamy illusion. This is a direct result of the camera always being present.

It is tough to watch Tchoupitoulas and not notice both the camera, which is always moving, and the editing style. The film wants to give the illusion of everything taking place over the course of one dreamy night. However, there are several moments, such as the burlesque show and rap concert, where it is obvious that they were shot on different days. Although these scenes help to show the many facets of New Orleans, they take you out of the mesmerizing world the film is trying to create. Tchoupitoulas is a film that tries to live on an atmospheric plain, but the audience cannot help but noticed the manipulative ways the film presents itself. The key to enjoying Tchoupitoulas is to just let the film wash over you. The film is not as concerned with conveying the truth as it is with capturing moments. Those looking for a straight narrative might walk away from the film’s loose structure rather disappointed. However, those willing to take a dreamy childlike look at a city rich in culture will experience a film that is unlike any other.

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