Experimental from its very consumation, Bubble - first of a projected six film deal to create small, wholly independent digital video works (all to be released simultaneously in theatres, on dvd and on cable television) - is probably Soderbergh's least accessible film since the failed fling that was Full Frontal. And, simalar to Full Frontal, Soderbergh's latest experimentation is getting an equally potpourri melange of mixed reviews - ranging from L'Ebert's "Everything about the film -- its casting, its filming, its release -- is daring and innovative." to Slate's Stephen Metcalf's "A grindingly slow pace, a quarter-baked plot, a semidocumentary focus on the lives of the working poor: It's enough to make you whimper "Matt Damon" in defeat.".
I believe my own thoughts on the film fall somewhere in the middle of all that - albeit slightly closer in colour to Ebert's comments - which is something that gave me a bit of a start, considering my mixed bag of emotions for the cinematic career of one Steven Soderbergh. Always a hit and miss director, Soderbergh regularly fluxuates between these experimental tidbits (Full Frontal, Kafka, Schizopolis), his "respected" semi-independents (Sex, Lies and Videotape, Out of Sight) and those big bang rat pack inspired mega movies (Ocean's 11, 12 and the upcoming 13). As a producer (along with best pal George Clooney), Soderbergh has always championed the small over the large - financing one with the other - and because of this I have great respect for the man, but still I can't help but enjoy only about every other film he does. So after the failure, at least in my opinion, of Ocean's Eleven (but boy they sure did look like they were having fun at that failure) and the mild curious eye wink at Full Frontal and the deflated ego-trip of Solaris and the gaily plaid episode in Eros, and the ever-so-boring retread of Ocean's Twelve, Bubble was bound to be a good film - even if it is a bit outside of most of the atypical Soderbergh fan's tastes. Of course this chain-linked theory of mine certainly does not bode well for the upcoming Good German.
What Bubble is - other than storily speaking, which tells the tale of three interweaved workers at a decaying Midwestern doll factory - is Soderbergh's latest foray into minimilism. This is a style that the filmmaker has failed at before, most notably in his egocentric attempt at reanimating Tarkovsky a few years back, but manages to get right with this tiny and strange little pulchritude. Giving the film a real-life-esque pallor - brought even deeper into focus by the non-professional cast that Soderbergh, like his foreign contemporaries Kiarostami and Tarr, employs in his effort for realism - Soderbergh manages a kind of zombie Americana with his blank-looked characters and dead-end small town. [05/27/06]