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 every-thing 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.
Jan. 11-17, 2013