Only the Young and Tchoupitoulas reviews

only-the-young-smTwo new Oscilloscope titles hit the screens at Lansdowne’s Cinema 16:9 today, both of which are documentaries featuring youthful trios who idle away their time in their respective environments, though the similarities end there…

Only the Young focuses upon three young skater-types growing up in a Southern California desert town.  They’re all God-fearing Christians who “show their love of Jesus Christ through skateboarding,” but this detail has little bearing on the film (also of passing note is the film’s absence of drugs and alcohol, replaced by an abundance of Minor Threat and straight edge t-shirts) , which is more concerned with an uninhibited look into the microcosm that is their seemingly boring lives.  Throughout the course of the film they find love, gossip about each other, and reveal secrets in the casual manner of life-long friends.  Eric Bogosian’s SubUrbia (1996) comes to mind, but the kids in Only the Young aren’t archetypes, they don’t blatantly represent their generation or their surroundings and none of them are necessarily aspiring towards anything other than happiness.  These are real kids who aren’t looking to explain the intricacies of growing up, they’re just looking to get by.  The immediate narrative is pretty self-explanatory, but never dull thanks to some truly picturesque shots of dry aqueducts, deserted concrete lots, and abandoned suburban swimming pools.  It’s actually a world away from the journey of the three youngsters in what could be considered its sister film…

tchoupitoulas-poster-smTchoupitoulas is more than a documentary, it’s a study in sense of place, the place in this case being a post-Katrina New Orleans.  There’s a fictional narrative (to some degree) that involves three youngsters who take the ferry to the big city, end up missing their ride back, and are thus forced to meander the lively city streets until the early morning.  Through their wanderings and observations, the filmmakers are able to convey the music, the sleaze, and the art of New Orleans, the city’s spirit, if you will.  We’re taken behind the counter at an oyster restaurant, we mingle amongst the performers of a street band, we’re taken backstage at a cabaret.  Abstract visual interstitials represent the passing of time as crowded streets disperse while late-night stragglers continue to entertain.  The film’s structure is experimental in its lack of narrative yet it remains completely accessible, the ultimate tour of an endlessly interesting city and its inhabitants.

The easiest criticism of a documentary amongst us film-types these days is saying that the film should have been a television production rather than a theatrical release, indeed that is often the case these days as reality television has elevated itself to new levels of pathos and (melo)drama.  But like 2012’s standout documentary The Imposter, both of these films are skillfully made and layered enough to warrant your time and admission.

Official site.

Author: Eric Bresler

Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.

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