Friday, February 23, 2024


Written at the time of the film's release. 

And it's a bit dated. We all know what happened with the pandemic, and it gave an extra push-start to streaming services, with indications that it might have pushed the market to far. Services are consolidating. But director Steve Soderbergh was pushing the red envelope way before anybody, looking for a way to unlock the stranglehold the main studios had with distribution. The situation is still in flux...and theaters are back in business again. We'll see what the market bears.

Bubble (Steven Soderbergh, 2005) Billed as "Another Steven Soderbergh Experience," this low-budget, shot on video, story of a love-triangle at a doll-making factory is more experimental than experiencial.

The business-end of the film is that it was released simultaneously in theaters, on Pay-per-View, and DVD...just to see what would happen. With the theater-life of films to DVD approaching four months and closing, business analysts were interested in what this new paradigm would look like. The costs on
Bubble being reasonable, they had nothing to lose, allowing them the freedom to experiment. Bubble, however, was probably not the best film to do it with, as the entire film is unconventional, with no stars, no pyrotechnics, and the innovations behind the scenes for the most part.
Soderbergh had executive-produced (with
George Clooney, his "Section Eight Productions" partner) a cable series called "K Street", centered around Washington D.C. politics that mixed real actors with politicians, and Soderbergh became fascinated with the split-dynamics in the performances of thespians and politico's—sometimes preferring the latter. Bubble was then designed to accommodate non-professionals before the camera: there was no formal script, taking memorization out of the equation, and the film was designed as a series of "Tableuax," freeing performers and crew from having to "hit their mark" (and it should be noted —
here in 2024—that this was the same approach used by Jonathan Glazer in the recent The Zone of Interest—although Glazer went so far as to hide the cameras and merely "allowed" his actors to interact in their field of view, almost as if they were security cameras).
Filmed locally in the twin-cities of
Belpre, Ohio and Parkersburg, West Virginia with locals culled from an interview process, Soderbergh made great picks for the principles with contrasting personalities and body-types and histories, informing their performances with the DNA of their lives. Line-readings are out of the equation, so the acting is reduced to reactions, flat-toned conversation, and tamped-down emotions.
And their eyes. "It's all in the eyes, really," said
Laurence Olivier, and this trio's "windows to the soul" are doing 80% of the work with fascinating results. Pretty soon, story is reduced to reaction and eyes that sparkle, harden, and hide...and betray inner thoughts, even un-scripted ones. It may not be the most dynamic film in the world, but for taking the mystery out of the film-making, and film-acting process, it makes for a very interesting watch.

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