A lyrical documentary that follows three adolescent brothers as they journey through one night in New Orleans, encountering a vibrant kaleidoscope of dancers, musicians, hustlers, and revelers parading through the lamplit streets. The filmmakers fully immerse us into the New Orleans night, passing through many lively and luminous locations and introducing us to the people who make the city their home.
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★★★★ review by tsar on Letterboxd
takes you directly into the hazy chaos of new orleans nightlife, a place somewhere between a purgatory and a paradise for musicians and artists. the disorientating texture of the street atmosphere is brought to life as perfectly as seems possible through film.
shapes, shadows, and lights loom over the three children that the camera follows, but they are completely at home, unafraid and seemingly in no danger. they move along tchoupitoulas street and into darker surrounding areas, unwittingly exposing the beautiful guts of the city and its people.
incredibly simple, uniquely illuminating. a simultaneously apocalyptic and idyllic representation of a city formed by culture and tradition.
★★★★½ review by Josiah Morgan on Letterboxd
Captures beauty between the confines of existence and pushes itself around and through the highs and lows of the city in the nighttime, it's quite the achievement that New Orleans manages to feel this autonomous yet this familiar at the same time when I've never been there, this is a film that is surreal solely because of how rooted it is in realism, it's The Fisher King without any of the fantasy or the schizophrenia, a double dose of romanticism and yet the entire film is completely singular.
This is a film as alive as it is dead, a young child discovering the city for the first time alongside two people who left it behind long ago.
The rock and country anthems of past decades resurrect and redefine and recontextualise images onscreen and help build the sense that this is the place we live. A film that is at once a microcosm of life and the most whole picture we will ever get.
The discussion of Michael Jackson early on in the film helps redefine moments later on when one of the brothers nonchalantly half-whispers 'they don't really care about us' as another half-remembered rock ballad plays in the background as performed by a street musician.
One of the greatest moments is a long spinning set of 360-degree matchcuts in which we see the youngest brother amidst several locations wherein the musical style and influence is different in each place.
Moreso than anything else, this is a film of lonely people of whom are seen in passing trying to find ways not to be lonely, a film about the ways we interact with ourselves and with others who appear similar to ourselves and the ways we don't interact with anyone else, it's a film that familiarises us with the highlights of life as much as it distances us from them, it's a film as alive as it's uninspired and somehow that's a compliment, this is one of the best films most people will never see.
You don't realise how late it is until you see the sun come up once again, and then you remember: life continues. There is no 'start', there is no 'stop', there just is.
★★★★★ review by Marcissus on Letterboxd
Yes one ticket to tch, tetcho, tchoopi, um. This film is not reflective of the magnetic perplexing SXSW trailer, for better or worse, it in fact does not revolve around staring at black kids faces whilst they ride public transport. It wasn't until I had scrambled through my notes trying in vain attempt to summarize this film did I realize how truly enchanting it was. Sometimes a five star film is born from the poetry /between/ the films.
Cinema at night is best cinema, the street lights illuminate the boisterous city that never stops acting. Night performers use the moonlit sky as their canvas to etch humanity into every corner of every block. The flow becomes slightly reminiscent of Enter the Void, but thematically opposite of Noe. Optimism in tow. The brothers rummage through the night fighting off the sandman, winding through New Orleans in a dream-like mystical adventure the likes of which Peter Jackson wishes he could still encapsulate. Whilst the bar lights flicker and the acoustics of performers dim the brothers meander and talk of their dreams, their wishes, their friends, their lives. Lyrically simple, essentially perfect. The travelogue of downtown nightlife is indefatigable; the city is alive and so are its inhabitants.
★★★★★ review by Larry on Letterboxd
I really don't have dreams, but last night I did.
After hearing about the film from the wonderful reviews of Marcissus and tsar and having just gotten back from a vacation to New Orleans this past summer, to say that Tchoupitoulas interested me was an understatement. I needed to see it.
I was only in the Big Easy for a week, but I had already fallen in love with the city pretty much within hours of being there. The voodoo shops, the unique accents, the flavorful food, the curbside vendors, the street performers, the vomit, the drunks, the Jester (the worlds strongest drink apparently) and the infamous neon drenched sleaze fest Bourbon Street. New Orleans is the real sin city. I have no daytime memories of The Big Easy. The city exists entirely in a nocturnal stream-of-consciousness within my mind.
The film itself is a quasi documentary following three young African American brothers and their dog as they wander the streets of New Orleans in real time over the course of one night. In the short hour and twenty minutes the boys lazily navigate a city they don't quite understand yet. They look upon the late night festivities wide eyed and with faces etched in endless wonder. The culture of New Orleans does something strange to people in that it puts them in some kind of daze. No, that's not the liquor. Its easy to get drunk off the atmosphere and to this date no film I've ever seen has captured New Orleans in this same intoxicating fashion. The film meanders and wanders with no rhyme or reason and has very little plot to speak of. The boys miss their ferry home after spending the evening walking their dog and skipping rocks into the mississippi. They are forced to keep busy and explore the streets as they wait for the ferry to reopen in the morning. Thats essentially all that happens.
I expected to see landmarks and familiar buildings in the film but I did not expect that the boys would take the almost exact route I walked one day with my sister. Across the train tracks to Canal St and finally hitting Bourbon. It was very surreal and as I sat there twiddling my souvenir voodoo beads in my hand I could almost smell the Cajun food and taste the thick Louisiana air. For a brief period of time I was back there. The blurs of motion, the mellow lights, the dark bustling city, and the soft aching music put me under like a drug. Tchoupitoulas is one of the greatest examples of the raw power of simplistic mood.
The films name itself (an actual street in New Orleans) invokes a certain kind of flavor and atmosphere that I think fits this film so well. The boys wanderings cut with VoiceOvers about their dreams and aspirations is a perfect elegy to a city filled with wandering souls trapped in its timeless void. I'm surprised I've come up with this much to say about the film since it really is quite simple. I think it has to do with the fact that Ive recently had a brief love affair with the city and its people. Like the boys walking the streets paved in years of sin, I want to be in New Orleans. I want to spend the rest of my days walking its streets.
But I don't want to be trapped there.
★★★★★ review by Jay Cheel on Letterboxd
This might seem a bit premature, but the Ross Brothers Tchoupitoulas will likely end up being one of my favourite films of the festival (and maybe, the year). This nostalgic adventure follows a group of three kids (and their trusty dog Buttercup) as they explore the French Quarter in New Orleans. The sights and sounds of the nightlife weave in and out of the narrative, piquing the curiosity of the boys and exposing them to the rich cultures and traditions the city is known for. When the group misses their midnight ferry home, they’re face with an unexpected adventure that had me absolutely captivated. The feeling I got while watching Tchoupitoulas is most recently comparable to my experience with Terrance Malick’s The Tree of Life. In particular, the ‘endless summer’ section of the film in which Malick allows the boys to be boys. While I certainly didn’t grow up in New Orleans (I’ve never even been there), the film manages to tap into and awaken dormant childhood memories and images that are truly universal. A moment that stood out the most for me was in the final act, in which the boys come upon a seemingly abandoned ferry. They decide to sneak on board and explore its creepy, dark hallways, letting their imaginations (and the audiences) take over. This sense of curiosity and adventure says more to me about the human experience (and the cinema-going experience) than any graphs-and-charts social issue doc could ever dream to achieve. Tchoupitoulas is a vicarious and engaging cinematic adventure and a welcome reminder of why I love the movies.
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