"Our favorite films are the films that you walk away from, and you're not done with them yet," said Director Turner Ross in Ragtag's Willy Wilson Theater Saturday night. Tchoupitoulas is one such film.
Turner Ross and his brother and filmmaking partner, Bill Ross, first showed Tchoupitoulas in a True/False secret screening in the same theater in 2012.
Ultimately, it's a film about boyhood, and the questions and thoughts it gently raises are as relevant in 2020 as they were in 2012.
The Rosses follow three brothers, William, Bryan and Kentrell Zanders, and their dog, Buttercup, through the streets of New Orleans one night after they miss the last ferry home from the Algiers terminal.
The camera captures New Orleans' nightlife by lingering on the sights and sounds of the city: an accordion player, a flute player, a burlesque dancer, a pizza maker, an oyster shucker and, of course, the Zanders brothers.
The film is purely observational in style; Turner Ross says their filmmaking mantra is "Don't talk about it. Be about it."
In addition to the nightlife, the camera captures the emotions and questions of boyhood by lingering on the expressions of the brothers in tight, close-up shots of their faces.
The most interesting (or at least most talkative) character in the equation is William Zanders, the youngest and smallest of the three.
"This is everything I hoped for," he says early on their night out. "Naked pictures, clubs, you guys know what I'm talking about?"
He is a kid with big plans. He dreams of winning Super Bowl rings, becoming a famous musician, winning tickets to see Michael Jackson and meeting his father, who only saw him once when he was a baby.
As the streets empty out, as Cafe Du Monde ends work for the day and burlesque dancers start work for the night, as the sky turns darker, so do William Zanders' thoughts.
"It's not like somebody's gonna come get us," he says as a train passes by. He doubts that his brothers have heard from anyone at home. "Nobody cares about us."
"I'm just a boy," he says as he grows hungry in the night.
"Girls like guys that have feelings," he explains as he tells his brothers about a girl at school.
"I could get sucked up into the sea, just like that," he says as he looks out over the water toward the end of the night.
These insights about life, death, adolescence, belonging and love are what make the film important still in 2020. Tchoupitoulas is a film about the nighttime and the dreams we have after the sun sets; it's an important film in the Ross brothers' collection of work.
Other showings: Sunday, March 8, at 5 p.m. at The Showtime Theater.