"Bubble": Swimming Against the Current By Karel Och

in 62th Venice International Film Festival

by Karel Och

In 2000, Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney formed Section Eight, a film production company based at Warner Bros. Five years later, after several successful attempts to incorporate their love for the seventh art into a moving picture (e.g. Ocean’s Eleven and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), both men succeeded in conquering the 62nd edition of Venice Film Festival. While Clooney was enjoying a well deserved success with his second directorial effort, Good Night, And Good Luck, a black and white homage to broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, Soderbergh revisited Lido for the third time (after Out of Sight and Eros) with a seventy-minute return to his independent roots with Bubble, presented out of competition.

As far from Hollywood as possible, but still in the United States, Soderbergh develops a rather simple story of everyday heroes stuck in the world of fast food and slow, repetitive motion. Martha and Kyle, employees of a doll factory somewhere in Ohio, share a silent friendship, the only sign of humanity in a cold and empty small town reality. But one day, a young single mother, Rose, joins the group and it is pretty obvious that nothing will ever be the same again. An unsuccessful attempt by the bizarre trio to maintain meaningful connections culminates in a mysterious murder.

Using a local cast with no previous acting experiences, and a low-budget which ensured that Soderbergh wasn’t able to use sophisticated filmic effects betrays two attributes of an unexpected decision: to shoot half a dozen high-definition format films in the next five years, and which will all be released simultaneously in movie theatres, on DVD, and satellite TV, in order to give movie viewers more choice. According to the vision of this acclaimed director, real people in a real environment should constitute an opposition to the so-called spontaneity of reality TV.

Soderbergh’s neo-realism deserves attention for bringing cinema back to its essence, especially at the beginning of the third millennium when it is so difficult to distinguish reality from simulacrum. Bubble offers the audience a chance to approach the current mentality of a nation whose mythology started with the gunfight at O.K. Corral. Whereas America was once famous for its energetic dynamism as a nation, it has now shattered into thousands of small and isolated worlds that occupy that once fascinating continent. The citizens do not ask questions anymore, they seem to be satisfied with their black-and-white status quo. Soderbergh’s fifteenth film, one of the hidden treasures of this year’s Mostra di cinema, shows in a rough yet tender way the loss of a famous American dynamism.