The title’s easy enough—it’s the name of a throbbing street of New Orleans (among many), running alongside the Mississippi River. As for the film itself, you’re going to have to work that out on your own. Sometimes it feels like a documentary, as a trio of youngish siblings—William, Kentrell and Bryan—make their way through the town’s rambunctious madness while hazy orange streetlights capture strippers, bums, drag queens and (the soul of the city?) a weathered bluesman. Then again, some of these French Quarter interactions feel staged: For all its atmosphere, is the movie 100 percent real?
Filmmaking brothers Bill and Turner Ross want to immerse you in that uncertain place; the results are often close to dreamlike, boasting a vividness that arises out of carefully shaped randomness. (It might also be added that while the directors are white, they approach their black subjects with an unfussy freshness, as David Gordon Green did in George Washington.) And still, even at this short running time, there’s a looseness to the kaleidoscopic adventure that becomes slightly wearying. If the effort went just a few more steps into experimentation, eliminating some of the awkward dialogue and grabbing for more of the Big Easy’s surreality (the sight of a grounded ferryboat is eerie), there’d be cause to celebrate. As it is, Tchoupitoulas feels like a promising, meandering stroll.
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