I watched Bubble last night. If you’re not familiar with the backstory, quick recap:

Steven Soderbergh directed it. Soderbergh is credited with starting the successful independent film movement that continues today with his movie Sex, Lies and Videotape. After that hit, he took the path of more experimentation with a series of increasingly esoteric films that he admits were of little use to anybody but himself. He got back into the mainstream game with some hip (Out of Sight), corny (Erin Brockovich), masterful (Traffic) and annoying (Ocean’s 11 a and b, which were kind of like GQ fashion spreads with stories) blockbusters.

With Bubble, the recently prolific Soderbergh is trying an experiment again. It’s the first time a movie will be released simultaneously in three formats: theatre, DVD and cable TV. When I heard this, I was really curious to see how it would work out. When people experiment with traditional forms, especially if it’s effective enough to change the way the industry works going forward, I think it’s extremely interesting. I wanted to see how this would go over and wanted to be part of it. Unfortunately for me, my chance to participate in the experiment was thwarted because, though Bubble was released in January, it has been marked “Very Long Wait” in my Netflix cue until this week.

Anyway, I’ve finally seen it. What was great about Bubble, the film itself, is that as a movie it’s also an experiment in form. At first I was shocked to read that for his great test flight Soderberg was going to use what sounded like a throwaway project: digital cameras, non actors, extreme minimalism. But the results are pretty incredible. For a while now we’ve got a taste of how reality, either in documentary or ‘reality TV’ form, can be often be more engrossing than traditional narrative forms when edited right. Some of the best movies I’ve seen in the past few years (Capturing the Friedmans, Spellbound, Winged Migration) have been documentaries, and the boom of reality TV dominated prime time TV for years and is still a huge ratings draw. But nobody’s ever combined reality with narrative before in this way,that I know of. Soderberg picked ordinary people from the town he was filming in, gave them a loose idea of the story and what needed to happen in each scene, but asked them to elements from their real lives to fill out the characters. I'm sure something like this has been tried by real actors before, and that it has some kind of method name, but surely this is some kind of first. The DVD bonus features include the extensive casting interviews where you realize just how much the real versions of these people were simply coopted into the film. It’s pretty odd, even creepy when you consider how one of the characters turns out to be a latent psychopath. (In real life that person seems sweet as pie.)

Besides this innovative method, even the story arc feels new. Though it’s a murder film with an investigation, the truth of what will happen and who will do it is telegraphed fairly on. That settled, our minds are allowed to meditate on the very mundane awfulness of how the wrong combinations of human interactions could end in mindless violence. A lot of the credit for the fact that this movie works at all has got to go to the casting department. You can’t take your eyes off these actors. Two of the three principals are as beautiful as they are believable. The third, Debbie Doebereiner as Martha, should get some kind of award. The mask of meek rage that slips across her face in certain scenes made me nervous to watch. I can’t even put my finger on what it is. It’s just the coldest face you’ve ever scene, while looking hot with blood. You know something’s not right. The last third of the movie is really tense. An uncomfortable thing to watch.

Smartly, they kept the running time short. If you're like me and you enjoy watching movies that approximate what it's actually like to be a person and think that humanity is engrossing enough without embellishment, you should watch Bubble.


At 4:09 AM, Anonymous keepitcomingster said...

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