Critics' Pick

Tchoupitoulas (NR)

Documentary 80 December 14th, 2012
By Alan Scherstuhl
Although they almost certainly have plans for striking new projects that expand our understanding of what documentaries can be, Bill and Turner Ross-- the co-directors, -producers, -camera operators, and -troublemakers behind Tchoupitoulas-- could do posterity a service if they simply resigned themselves to replicating this one-night-in–New Orleans documentary for each of the world's great cities. The Rosses have captured something rare: What a night spent stumbling about New Orleans actually feels like. Here are the street characters; the make-joy-from-thin-air musicians; the spooky, shadowed parks; burlesque performer Perle Noire in great pastied shimmy and then, touchingly, breathing heavily backstage and sucking on a bottle of water, tired but not unpleased with a good night's work. The Rosses take "documentary" to mean the documenting of an experience-- say, one night out, presented here with both handheld-camera rawness and dreamy, abstract passages--and are more open about the misrepresentation of space and time for the good of the film than most other practitioners of their craft. Here, in what is no doubt a "documentary," the filmmakers pass off more than half a year's worth of New Orleans street life as the adventures enjoyed by three young boys over the course of a single night out. The boys-- William, Bryan, and Kentrell Zanders-- aren't actors, and their reactions to the city around them seem real: "This is everything I hoped for!" pipes eager William, the youngest. "Naked pictures, clubs, you know what I mean?" There's no talk of Katrina or the city’s class and racial divides. There's just New Orleans and a trio of likable kids, trooping through it, finding every marvel.
Bill Ross, Turner Ross Bryan Zanders, Kentrell Zanders, William Zanders Michael Gottwald, Josh Penn, Dan Janvey, Bill Ross, Turner Ross Oscilloscope Laboratories