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Review: 'Tchoupitoulas' a flight of fancy in New Orleans

Sibling filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross' 'Tchoupitoulas' blends nonfiction and narrative in documenting the adventures of three young brothers in nighttime New Orleans.

December 20, 2012|By Sheri Linden
  • Bryan Zanders, Kentrell Zanders and William Zanders in a scene from "Tchoupitoulas."
Bryan Zanders, Kentrell Zanders and William Zanders in a scene from "Tchoupitoulas." (Oscilloscope Laboratories )

"Tchoupitoulas" is a jewel-bright whoosh of a ride through nighttime New Orleans.

Embarking on a mission to create "an artifact of an adventure," sibling filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross turned their kinetic lenses on another set of brothers, the adolescent Zanders trio from the city's Algiers neighborhood.

From nine months' worth of shooting they've created a single night's story, disjointed in its logic (sometimes it's Mardi Gras, sometimes it isn't) but perfectly coherent in its sensory-immersion chronicle of the boys' peregrinations.

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The blend of nonfiction and narrative attests to the vitality of such hybrid forms.

With their dog, Buttercup, the three boys — teenagers Bryan and Kentrell and their brother William, a wisecracking prepubescent philosopher — cross the Mississippi by ferry.

Though much of the night life they encounter will be familiar to viewers, the exuberance on both sides of the camera lends the cityscape the sense of fresh discovery, not just when the boys meet such colorful figures as alleyway buskers and sidewalk proselytizers, but also when they're watching, through storefront glass, as a pizza maker works the dough.

Stepping inside some of the joints forbidden to the Zanders, the Rosses find captivating action, onstage and off, at a burlesque hall, and spotlight an oyster shucker's aphrodisiac spiel.

"Tchoupitoulas" moves easily between abstraction (glitter-sharp particles of light) and dramatic mystery (the boys' sneaking around a decommissioned riverboat, complete with graffiti and working chandelier).

When he isn't extemporizing on Discovery Channel factoids or rhapsodizing about a girl he likes, who's "unique in her own way," William expresses his visions of the future. He dreams of flying, and this mythic crossing feels like a starting point.

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'Tchoupitoulas'

No MPAA rating

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Playing: At Downtown Independent, Los Angeles

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