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Only The Young / Tchoupitoulas | DVD Review

Only The Young Tchoupitoulas Ross Brothers Elizabeth Mims Jason Tippet DVDWhen it was announced that Only The Young and Tchoupitoulas would be released together in a single package, I was a little taken back by the seemingly strange pairing. A coming-of-age story of teenage southern Cali punks playing alongside a trio of young brothers venturing the vibrant streets of New Orleans in an overnight adventure? Sure, they are two of the best American documentaries of 2012, and yes, they both employee a group of kids as their subjects, but it still seemed a little odd. Watching them side by side though, it makes a whole lot of sense. Both films, gorgeously shot and inventively structured, take a look at the world through the naïve eyes of youth, experiencing the awkward tensions between love and friendships or letting the alien mores of a city so near, yet so far, wash over them in a hail of aural overload. Directors Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet, as well as the Ross Brothers, Bill and Turner, should be proud to share a release so full of life with one another.

Only The Young follows a trio of good-hearted teenage punks meandering their way through high school problems while trying to deal with innate ones that are just too big for their own naïve hands to hold. In a small town in southern California,Mims and Tippet found Garrison, Kevin and Skye, a pair of young skaters and their pierced up female counterpart trying to find themselves among the corroding abandoned buildings and fluorescent lit underpasses that make up their neighborhood. Their brief, supremely honest account is one of growing up in a small town with a small clique and a head full of perplexities and the best intentions.

Feeling like an amalgamation of recent documentaries such as Alma Har’el’s Bombay Beach, which shares subject matter in troubled small town kids, and Tristen Patterson’s Dragonslayer, a film about a SoCal skater taking the wandering path to accepting adulthood, Mims and Tippet’s doc finds its own footing by hinging its trifecta of friendship, faith and change on the authenticity of their baby-faced subjects. Only The Young manages to encapsulate and circumvent all the clichés of teenage romance, the rebellion of punk rock, the influence of religious youth groups, and the results of drug abuse to produce a vision both heartwarming and heartbreaking, a celebration of youthful hope and desire that sincerely accepts the unavoidable adversities of maturity.

Matching that deep seeded sincerity, Tchoupitoulas sees a trio of young brothers venture out into the Bourbon Street nightlife with their good natured dog in tow, finding with wide-eyed wonder that the city they call home is a musical wonderland of indulgence and melancholy. But rather than delving into the seedy side of the city, the Ross brothers wrap the innocence of the boys in a tapestry of sights and sounds that celebrates the intoxicating musical culture that pervades every bar and street corner. The youthful perspective allows us to see the city not with touristy cynicism, but as an eclectic every night festival of provincial performance welcoming one and all.

Though the Ross Brothers’ cameras tail the kids over the course of a single night, during which they watch endless parades, witness cabarets though windows, eventually miss their fairy home and end up exploring a mysteriously lit-but-empty cruise boat, the camera also breaks away to briefly peak into the local pubs and clubs, finding local blues men, topless dancers and fire breathers as they do their thing. Pieced together in ever-transitioning aural layers that mix performances, street ambiance and the spoken dreams of the youngest of the boys, Tchoupitoulas becomes a hallucinatory adventure that revels in the unspoiled experiences of youth.

Disc Review:

A pair of Oscilloscope’s standard logo faced DVDs make up the package, one for each film. Both films look faithful to their original digital forms. Only The Young especially looks outstanding, shot almost entirely in static shots on a Canon 7D in the California sunshine. Tchoupitoulas on the other hand is naturally a lot grittier, being filmed at night and occasionally purposefully degraded, but in its own way it looks wonderful. The Ross Brothers certainly have a way with shooting in low light and the DVD translates it naturally. Audio-wise, both films receive warm 5.1 audio tracks. Only The Young relies more on naturalistic sound while Tchoupitoulas is buried in layers of street music, all of which is rounded will in the mix with appropriate texture in the surrounds. Both discs are packaged in Oscilloscope’s signature recycled gatefold packaging.

Only The Young DVD:
Thompson (2010)

Acting as a perfect Tippet directed/Mims produced pre-cursor to Only The Young, this short is a brief look into the lives of a pair of high school outcasts who spend their time tinkering with motors and riding scooters. 10 min

Audio Commentary
Featuring directors Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims in conversation with film journalist Eric Hynes, speaking about how their relationships with the kids came about, some of the technical aspects of the filming and structure worked. They also spill their love for Wes Anderson and speak briefly on the fact that they were a couple, but no longer are. There are gaps that return back to the original film track, but for the most part the conversation is lively and informative.

Extra scenes of friendship, conversations about school, time spent with fathers, plus a montage of them skating and more. 15 min

Theatrical Trailer
Creating the whimsy of this youthful film through a perfect music track, a collection of loving press quotes and a great selection of clips, it’s a wonderful preview of a wonderful film. 2 min

Tchoupitoulas DVD:
Behind the Scenes with the Ross Brothers

Playing like outtakes from their web series turned three hour comedy adventure, River, we see the brothers drinking, singing classic movie songs and exploring bars with the locals. Along the way audio from a radio interview with the directors is placed as aural background to their adventures. It’s rough footage, but funny. 15 min

Theatrical Trailer
I remember when this trailer was first released and how enigmatic it was. It remains so, seeing the boys staring directly into the camera in extreme closeup, presumably sitting in the back of a moving truck as the sun sets on New Orleans. I’m still baffled, but interested. 1 min

Final Thoughts:

There hasn’t been a better pairing of films released this year. Both films remain among the best non-fiction to screen last year. With the films packaged together with a variety of decent extras, this is a steal of a deal that celebrates the naivety of youth in gorgeously creative, boldly authentic modes and gives Oscilloscope their best release of the year so far. It’s simple folks- this one’s a gem. A gem.

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