Entitled "Your Brother. Remember," the filmed version of performance artist Zachary Oberzan's acclaimed one-man show (opening at Brooklyn's reRun Gastropub this weekend) explores his longstanding affection for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. More specifically, however, Oberzan shows how Van Damme's "Kickboxer" and "Faces of Death" provided a vessel for coming to terms with his estranged brother over the course of their parents' messy divorce and, later, his brother's incarceration and drug addiction.
But Oberzan, whose resourceful approach was last seen onscreen with the remarkable "Rambo: First Blood" adaptation "Flooding with Love for the Kid" (in which the actor played every role and staged the entire movie in his apartment), doesn't simply lay out his agenda.
Instead, "Your Brother. Remember?" erratically jumps between three equally beguiling layers of narrative: Oberzan, on a blank stage doing his best Van Damme impersonation, discusses his longtime feud with older brother Eric; these absurd monologues alternate with 20-year-old footage of the teen Oberzan recreating scenes from the aforementioned Van Damme cult hits with his shirtless brother in the lead role. A final twist on the meta approach find Oberzan staging new reenactments of the reenactments with the same family cast, a high concept means of reconciling with his drug-addled sibling.
The multiple strands at first create a highly chaotic experience, but around the half-hour mark of the hourlong running time, "Your Brother. Remember" suddenly clicks as a dual statement of affection for movies and family bonds, leading to a unique portrait that suggests "Be Kind Rewind" by way of "Tarnation."
Beneath its ridiculous exterior, Oberzan's highly personal video essay struggles with the connection between entertainment and life, grasping for the conclusion that they're ultimately indistinguishable. As his brother eventually explains in a late act confession, Oberzan's professional acting forms a kind of "sanctioned" performance, while the older man's attempts to bury his drug habit represents acting as a survival tactic.
The performance involved in reenacting their favorite JCVD moments, then, symbolizes a merging of the two extremes. As "Your Brother. Remember?" builds to its emotional climax, Oberzan's diary-film-homage-home-video-whatchit reaches a thrilling cohesion. Their playacting elevates the cheesy dialogue to profound heights, proving that there's no such thing as guilty pleasures for the people who love them.
"Your Brother. Remember?": A-
Watch the trailers for "Keyhole" and "Your Brother. Remember?" below: