Directed by Bill and Turner Ross
Framed as a dusk-to-dawn tour through New Orleans' teeming French Quarter, this impressionistic portrait follows the slow-floating jamboree and lingers on the area’s vagrant fringes, betraying a deep yet also deeply considered fondness for it all. Shot in far-from-state-of-the-art digital, the feature—in which three brothers take the ferry across the Mississippi to wander the city streets—most closely resembles a documentary, but it might also be seen as a loose narrative improvised from vérité footage: moving against a tide of tourists clutching plastic cups, Bryan, Kentrell, and younger tag-along William each absorb the surrounding sights and sounds at their own lackadaisical pace. (At regular interludes, William also delivers one of those rambly kid voiceovers, precociously expounding upon his outsize hopes and dreams.)
The boisterous siblings—from some early at-home roughhousing forward, we see that between them a hug might easily turn into a headlock—often stop to take in street-corner entertainment and peer through windows and doorways at an array of more grown-up curiosities. The filmmakers, Bill and Turner Ross (brothers themselves), stray from the boys’ wide-eyed perspective to offer unvarnished, up-close glimpses of local burlesque routines, rowdy live music, and other dive-bar diversions. In doing so, the Rosses—who previously made 45365, a lyrically congenial canvassing of their Ohio hometown—manage the feat of establishing a more knowing (if scarcely less jubilant) sense of place to offset the kids’ marveling.
When William takes a spill while running to catch the last ferry back home, the three are forced to spend the small hours waiting around the city’s waterfront, eventually happening upon a docked riverboat whose abandoned chandeliers and staircases elicit in them a sort of off-kilter wonder. (One brother later enthuses that boarding the vessel was "the weirdest thing I ever did in my life.") The Rosses bookend this centerpiece sequence with striking views of the glittering skyline, park-bench idlers, and late-shift employees going about their business. And so Tchoupitoulas portrays a place that’s unique on multiple fronts: it possesses no shortage of mysteries for those seeking to uncover them, and even as a city functioning both in support of and apart from its magic revelry, it still has an internal clock all its own.
Opens December 7