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Originally published November 9, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 9, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Movie review

"The Bubble" | Romantic comedy amid violence and turmoil

Like an Israeli version of "Cabaret" (but with a very different kind of ending), Eytan Fox's "The Bubble" focuses on a group of Tel Aviv...

Special to The Seattle Times


Movie review 3.5 stars

"The Bubble," with Ohad Knoller, Yousef "Joe" Sweid, Alon Friedmann, Daniela Wircer. Directed by Eytan Fox, from a screenplay by Fox and Gal Uchovsky.

117 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains nudity, violence, profanity, sex scenes). In Hebrew and Arabic, with English subtitles. Varsity showtimes.

Like an Israeli version of "Cabaret" (but with a very different kind of ending), Eytan Fox's "The Bubble" focuses on a group of Tel Aviv slackers who attempt to create their own self-sufficient world in order to deal with the violence and oppression that surround them.

Sharing an apartment in this "bubble" are Noam (Ohad Knoller), a gay music-store clerk and reserve soldier; his queeny best friend, Yali (Alon Friedmann), a self-indulgent cafe manager; and Lulu (Daniela Wircer), a boutique saleswoman who makes a rather lame attempt to protest the occupation.

At a checkpoint, Noam meets and falls for Ashraf (Yousef "Joe" Sweid), a Palestinian who tracks him down and becomes more than a one-night stand. Complicating the forbidden relationship are the romantic adventures of the roommates, who accept the volatile Romeo-and-Juliet situation Noam and Ashraf have created. Ashraf even gets a job, posing as a Jew, at Yali's cafe.

When Ashraf returns to his Palestinian home and Noam shows up, pretending to be a journalist, their affair is discovered and Ashraf is coerced into courting an Arab girl. Knoller turns the ruse into the film's comic high point; at the same time, it generates considerable tension.

The director and co-writer, Eytan Fox, who made the remarkable 2004 Israeli thriller "Walk on Water," is at his best here. The casting is spot-on; the blend of erotic comedy and political drama is stunningly smooth; the finale is both devastating and inevitable.

When Fox showed and discussed "The Bubble" at the Seattle International Film Festival last spring, some audience members were so shaken by the ending that they questioned his judgment. When it opened in New York recently, Time Out magazine called the final scene "almost unforgivable." The New York Times found it "more poetic than just."

"There was this one guy who was telling me in the lobby afterwards, 'You have to explain,' " said Fox during his Seattle festival visit. "Maybe I could have worked a little harder and made a little more of those pressures that are working in [one character's] soul. But the pressures are recognized in the film."

To me, the ending suggests the enigmatic finale of "The Bridge on the River Kwai," in which the reasons for what happens are not entirely clear. It's one of those "what have I done?" moments, which can be debated as long as the film is shown.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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