If sheer passion were enough, “Flooding With Love for the Kid” would take top prize. Zachary Oberzan’s one-man reimagining of the John Rambo legend reps a crazy crusade to shoot a more faithful adaptation of David Morrell’s “First Blood” (the novel that spawned the successful Sylvester Stallone franchise) while stuck at the opposite end of the production-value spectrum. Operating with a budget of $95.51, Oberzan sticks to his 220-square-foot studio apartment and plays every part himself (30-odd roles in front of the camera and another half dozen behind it), trading personal dignity for immortality as a footnote in film history.While successful on its own modest terms (embracing Rambo’s “one-man war” as metaphor for the project, Oberzan seems content simply to have made a feature under such unusual self-imposed obstructions), his amateur experiment faces an entirely different set of challenges when projected for an audience. After a well-publicized run at Gotham’s Anthology Film Archives, pic has courted hipster crowds via special curated screenings or on DVD direct from Oberzan. In that context, what was undertaken in all seriousness inevitably becomes comedic, with only ironic curiosity to show for Oberzan’s too-earnest approach (featuring no shortage of nudity or on-camera humiliation, as in flashbacks to Rambo’s torture by Vietnamese captors, in which Oberzan the Asian stereotype urinates on Oberzan the shirtless POW). Shot on video and edited using home software pricier than all Oberzan’s props, pic feels like a record of adolescent play-acting, with the writer-director (and split-personality star) taking the trouble to change camera angles, amateur accents and disguises for our benefit — a range of fake mustaches, wigs and Army-Navy surplus costumes serve to differentiate the characters. Yet Oberzan ultimately demands too much of our imagination. It’s one thing to use a toaster as a CB radio or a pie tin as a steering wheel, but bathtub-riverbeds and closet-caves aren’t so intuitive, and it’s hard to see the forest for that single, spindly pine tree. Ingenuity can go a long way to excuse limited resources (see do-it-all director Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi”), but Oberzan frequently oversteps his abilities. The script makes Morrell’s original potboiler look like poetry, while Oberzan’s thesping style reduces the characters to broad types — reasonably easy to distinguish but impossible to relate to. Rudimentary compositing yields a few nifty tricks, as when Oberzan punches himself out, though it’s the stuff he does for real, like roasting a teddy bear over a campfire on his living-room floor, that prove most impressive — not that his landlord would agree.
Produced, directed, written, edited by Zachary Oberzan, based on the novel "First Blood" by David Morrell.
Camera (color, DV), Oberzan; production designer, Oberzan. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, May 29, 2010. Running time: 107 MIN.