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Brandon Judell

''The Bubble": Blowing Up Middle-Eastern Rancor With Copulation


''The Bubble"
Director: Eytan Fox
Editors: Yosef Grunfeld, Yaniv Raiz
Costume Design: Oren Dar
Second Unit Directors: Mira Shoval, Irit Yavnin
Cast: Ohad Knoller, Yousef "Joe" Sweid, Daniela Wircer, Alon Friedmann, Ruba Blal, Shredy Jabarin

Reviewed by Brandon Judell, June 21, 2007


"The Bubble"

Although the head-shaved, sprightly Eytan Fox might just be the prince of the Kosher New Wave emanating out of Israel for the past decade, he's definitely the king of the faygala division of the same movement.

Yes, amongst the spate of top-notch features Israel has been showering upon international cinemas as of lately (e.g. Late Marriage; My Father, My Lord; the films of Amos Gitai), Fox's "Yossi & Jagger" (2002) and "Walk on Water" (2004) have brilliantly showcased the dilemma of being homosexual in a society where machismo was once considered a treasured Zionist trait necessary for national survival.

As Raz Yosef notes in "Beyond Flesh: Queer Masculinities and Nationalism in Israeli Cinema" (Rutgers University Press), "In fin-de-siècle anti-Semitic scientific-medical discourse, the male Jew's body was associated with diseases, madness, degeneracy, sexual perversity, and 'femininity,' as well as with homosexuality . . . . Thinkers such as Theodor Herzl and Max Nordau were convinced that the invention of a physically stronger, healthier heterosexual 'Jewry of Muscles' would not only overcome the stereotype of the Jewish male as a homosexual, but also would solve the economic, political, and national problems of the Jewish people."

If this wasn't enough to overcome, you have the Haredim, the ultra-Orthodox Jews, who equate homosexual acts with going down on Satan. In fact, in a run-up to the Gay Pride parade held in Jerusalem this past Thursday, Associated Press reported that "a 32-year-old ultra-Orthodox man [was] caught carrying a homemade explosive device. Under questioning, the man said he had planned to plant the explosive along the parade route." (Two years ago a religious youth stabbed three marchers.)

In this chaotic atmosphere, Fox has explored gay love within the military and homophobia within the Israeli intelligence agency with warmth, wit, and applaudable plotting, dynamic acting, and sterling technique.

Now with "The Bubble," Fox's focus in on three young Israeli peaceniks who are horny, affable roommates residing in a crowded Tel Aviv apartment.

Noam (Ohad Knoller) is just back from army reserve duty, where at a West Bank blockade a Muslim woman gave birth to a stillborn after being harassed by Israeli guards. Horrified by what he witnessed, this passive, gay hunk who works in a record store is still not shaken up enough to revamp his daily routine.

Lulu (Daniela Wircer) is a beautiful, acid-tongued, long-tressed, Sex-and-the-City wannabe who keeps winding up with the wrong man. She earns her keep in a bath products boutique where she lets out her orgasmic frustrations on her customers.

Finally, there's Yali (Alon Friedmann), a pleasantly insecure queer boy, who secretly has the hots for Noam, but settles for substitutes. He manages a trendy eatery run by two lesbians where he gets to date waiter applicants.

The three together, with their continual banter about sexual woes, Take That and Morrissey, plus attire dilemmas, could be situated in any major cosmopolitan metropolis.

That is until Ashraf (Yousef Sweid) shows up at their door. This Palestinian heartthrob is returning Noam's accidentally dropped identity card, which he'd lost at the aforementioned blockade. The two fall instantly into couplehood:

"So that's how Jews kiss."

"So that's how Arabs do it."

Ashraf moves in, illegally, starts waitering for Yali, and does his best to keep his Arab identity secret from the authorities.

All is well, until politics rears its ugly head with suicide bombers, Israeli soldiers' stray bullets, and the butting in of a world that is massively ill fit for true love.

Yet until the highly controversial ending which might have you slugging it out with your fellow audience members about its appropriateness, "The Bubble" is a delicious, often sparklingly funny, always immeasurably resonant account of what it is to be youthful and humane in a situation that is an affront to beneficent sensibilities.

"The Bubble" was a highlight of both the Seattle International and Tribeca Film Festivals.


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