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Bobbled 'Bubble'

November 22, 2007 By:
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On the bubble: That's where Eytan Fox is about these days, just about to bounce onto the Oscar scene before slipping off the surface into the second rank.

Certainly, the man who proved he can "Walk on Water" -- that 2004 effort has been called Israel's most successful film export -- is having a tougher time bobbling "The Bubble," his latest work opening this Friday.

The American-born, Israeli-raised filmmaker has always gone against the 35 mm grain, opting for irreverent with his optic lens on humankind's erratic behavior, especially as it unwinds in Israel, where one person's hummus is just another's squashed hill of beans.

He's played tag with a theme others touch on only obliquely, observing the gay life in Israel -- and how keeping it gay is far tougher than a Mel Brooks tagline would have you believe.

Indeed, "Walk on Water," whose stream of a theme focused on the relationship between a Mossad agent and the friendship he forges with a gay man of Nazi ancestry; and "Yossi & Jagger," about the jagged edges and cutthroat world encountered by the ultimate odd couple -- Israeli army officers unexpectedly attracted to one another -- fete Fox as a filmmaker in a henhouse filled with hot, sexually debated dialogues.

And yet the talk this year of Israel's Oscar-winning bait is not "Bubble," but the battle between "The Band" and "Beaufort," with "Band" aid required when it was dismissed on a foreign-film rules violation, leaving Fox's bubble pricked as "Beaufort" played on, hoping Oscar makes aliyah this year.

The undeniably talented Fox focuses here on a menage of trifles, a minor trio of X-generation members not bothering to ask the whys of life.

Caught up in the bubble that is their Tel Aviv bohemia -- a "Rent" of Israeli renegades -- they slip up only when distracted from their Jaffa navel-gazing, with the introduction to their hermetic haven of a new member, a Palestinian who befriends and beds one of their own.

Ashraf as outsider becomes their own homegrown human stain as they pass him off as Israeli. The complications that ensue for this strung-out quartet are more or less predictable -- a surprise from the flexible filmmaker, coming off as a somewhat defanged Fox -- with a denouement that detonates like a dud.

The innate hate and distrust that dances among Israeli-Palestinian relationships as a hybrid hora-dal'onah is examined with a microscope that would do the Technion proud. But, ultimately, this movie as microcosm misses on some max messages it could have made had it been scripted more discreetly.

"Bubble"-meises? No, so much more than that, but a film that ultimately evaporates rather than eviscerates.

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