â€˜Bubbleâ€™ is a mere 75 minutes long, shot with a digital camera by Steven Soderbergh, and using â€œrealâ€ people as actors. Soderbergh found a hair stylist, a KFC manager and a slacker and recruited them to play the primary roles in this bare bones story. The movie is set on the Ohio-West Virginia border, which is where the actors all grew up and live today.
The plot itself is a little simplistic, and Iâ€™m not sure I like the motivation used to explain the murder, but what makes this a quite wonderful little movie is the cinematography. Soderbergh does for mid-Ohio what he did for LA in â€˜Limeyâ€™: in a few brief stills he captures the heart of a certain kind of existence. In this case it is the gray, flat world of working people struggling to keep their heads above water in a minimum wage economy. Every single damn shot is a masterpiece of composition. Unobtrusively, the store names, the contents of the vending machines, the posters on the walls, the church pews, and everything else behind and around the principal actors paint a picture of this part of the United States and of a social milieu that we rarely get to see on film. Much of the movie is filmed at night, or in dimly lighted factories, diners, trailers and rooms. The contrast to the dazzling light of â€˜Limeyâ€™ is striking. The interiors are superb, particularly the doll factory which manages to evoke efficiency and soul-destroying monotony simply with a few stills and the hum of machinery.
I suppose the film is minimalist in the van Sant sense. The camera simply follows the actors around and records their conversations. As non-actors, the voices are almost entirely without affect, contributing to the flatness of the movie. There are long periods of silence during the conversations, and the dialogue is so limited that each social interaction feels awkward. At one point, talking through a screen in a prison visiting room, Kyle just keeps responding with exactly the same words, â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ to Marthaâ€™s cries for help. To my ears, though, the dialogue is utterly authentic, as indeed is the image of semi-rural Ohio that the movie portrays.
In a very old â€œHancockâ€™s Half Hourâ€ sketch, Tony Hancock goes to a photographer for some new publicity photos and asks him to take some snaps. â€œSnaps?â€ the photographer replies, â€œI donâ€™t take snaps; I paint with light.â€ Soderbergh certainly does that here.