In the outsider-cinema event of the season, New York’s Anthology Film Archives is kicking off a weeklong run today of Zachary Oberzan’s “Flooding with Love for the Kid,” a one-man staging of “First Blood” (best known as the source material for the Sylvester Stallone film), made for all of $96.
“Staged within the confines of his 220-square-foot Manhattan apartment—the film was originally part of Oberzan’s one-man show, Rambo Solo—this lo-fi reimagining finds the actor-director playing every character in the well-known story of a psychologically scarred Vietnam veteran pushed to the edge,” explains Aaron Hillis in Time Out New York. “While the premise might seem like a superficial YouTube stunt, the storytelling is crafty, compelling (falling from a cliff while being chased by a helicopter?!?) and heartfelt enough to explode all sense of cheeky irony. Oberzan means every word—even while he’s performing a rectal cavity search on himself—and it’ll take more than shoddy effects and a blurry autofocus to stop his DIY warfare from drafting followers.”
The L Magazine’s Nicolas Rapold: “‘Flooding with Love for the Kid’ (which takes its title from a climactic line in the book) asks for a theatergoer’s suspension of disbelief, as Oberzan stages copter flights, plays attack dogs, and gnaws on grilled teddybear. But the old formula of committed madness feels apropos here, even if one-man-band rhetoric becomes its own kind of jingoism, and his Beret trainer Colonel Trautman beats Richard Crenna’s.”
Also in The L Magazine, Matt Zoller Seitz discusses the film in a video essay.
“Oberzan has also, in some ways, subverted the cultural meaning of Rambo,” observes Anthony Kaufman at IFC News, who also interviews Oberzan about the film. “His no-frills ‘Flooding with Love for the Kid’ denies the viewer the cathartic death-trip spectacle associated with the franchise, along with the victorious guns a’ blazing comeback of its scarred protagonist. Though Oberzan might not agree, his Rambo is perhaps the truer action hero for the Obama age.”
Michael Atkinson in the Village Voice: “The degree to which you can get sucked into Oberzan’s re-enactment is rather astonishing—a pivotal night ‘chase scene’ through the ‘wilderness’ is actually almost thrilling—and you’re reminded yet again how easily, like children, we accept transparent fakery of the worst kind in service of old-fashioned, Edwin S. Porter–style storytelling.”
“Employing a basic library of sound effects, on-screen passages from the book, and thin fabric over the lens for night and woodland scenes, Oberzan is mostly successful in revitalizing the dime-store psychology and blood n’ guts of ‘First Blood’ through storytelling as childlike play,” notes Slant Magazine’s Bill Weber, though the New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger concludes that the project “ultimately feels like a YouTube video that goes on too long.”
And, please, watch the trailer.