Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Dallas International Film Festival preview: Tchoupitoulas
In Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans is a dream destination.
Three young brothers gallivant around the Big Easy in Tchoupitoulas (playing April 18 and 19 at Angelika Film Center Dallas), an immersive and vibrant cataloguing of their night away from home, in their home. But directors Bill and Turner Ross present the boys’ experiences not as a narrative and not as an expose, but as a fleeting, almost dream-like pattern of images, impressions and memory — rather like the kaleidoscope of memories many visitors take away from a city so anchored by hedonism.
Living in one of New Orleans’ disadvantaged southern wards, William tags along behind his two older brothers, Bryan and Kendrell, on a ferry ride across the Mississippi River to the city center. They have no objective except to soak in the sounds and sights of a part of the Crescent City they’ve rarely seen, much less experienced. From street musician run-ins and peep show peeps to an otherworldly abandoned ship, the Ross brothers track the boys’ every step, even after they miss the last ferry back home and are forced to spend an entire night wandering more.
Though the Ross brothers grew up in Ohio (which was he focus of their last documentary, 45365), their desire to celebrate New Orleans’ rich visuals came from childhood trips to the city.
“Dad went to school in Southern Mississippi, so we visited Louisiana a lot,” Bill Ross said. “We had all these life experiences and just wanted to speak to that with the film.”
Recruiting the young protagonists evoked a familiar sense of purity and awe, and the directors’ cinema verite style gave the trio carte blanche to be themselves: kids.
“They became our spiritual surrogates,” Ross said, “but their experiences were their own, though there are common things we would have had.
“I guess that the essence of the theme would be the perspective of youth: having that childlike wonderment in that very real and adult world. Rather than trying to translate our own experiences or re-create it, we tried to find something evocative of that.”
However, the film’s meanderings are often detachments from the brothers’ point of view: tangential ventures into what the boys couldn’t have accessed, such as a backstage burlesque performance and a front-row seat at Little Freddie King’s blues concert. Bill Ross said that those visual showcases represented a larger desire to unveil the prismatic city, in which they spent eight months to make Tchoupitoulas.
“We found a lot of scenes, groups of people and locations that we didn’t know of before,” Ross said, “and we really tried to dive into that stuff.” But ultimately, the Ross’ fantastical depiction plays like a lusciously foggy dream with no agenda or issues—again, what many take away from the Big Easy.
“We tried to make these articulations so that people can have their own experiences” when watching Tchoupitoulas, Ross said. “If you’re gonna be a wandering eye or an invisible person somewhere, New Orleans ain’t a bad place to be doing it.”
Pegasus News Content partner - Dallas International Film Festival
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