Friday, September 07, 2007

The Bubble • הבועה

Life in Tel Aviv is in a bit of a bubble of unreality, disconnected from much of the reality of the unending struggle between the Jews and the Arabs over a little patch of land that both sides consider holy. As The Bubble begins, Noam (Ohad Knoller, Yossi in Fox's earlier film Yossi and Jagger) is on army reserve duty at a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank. He meets Ashraf (Yousef 'Joe' Sweid), a Palestinian who speaks fluent Hebrew, the result of growing up in the divided city of Jerusalem. The two fall in love, but then must confront a rather severe version of the dilemma of a lover from "the wrong side of the tracks." The film is a poignant slice of the lives of these two star-of-David- and crescent-and-star-crossed lovers. I wasn't a fan of Yossi and Jagger, a story of a romance between two male Israeli soldiers, but I found The Bubble much more satisfying. Highly recommended.

The Bubble is currently screening at the Landmark Embarcadero and Landmark Shattuck Theatres (in S.F. and Berkeley, respectively) and in limited release nationally.

The Bubble (הבועה), dir. Eytan Fox (איתן פוקס), 2006 Israel, 117 min., in English, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007


When it first came out 27 years ago, William Friedkin's Cruising broke ground. It was the first major-studio crime drama set primarily in a gay male milieu. Al Pacino plays an undercover cop investigating the murders of a string of gay men with the common thread that they had cruised for sex either in public parks or in gay S&M clubs — although not in airport restrooms. Some of the murders are shown in grisly detail, but the story focuses more on Pacino's disorientation as he dives more deeply into his undercover identity, especially on his infrequent visits back to his real-life girlfriend. When Cruising was released, gay men picketed theatres where it screened, protesting what they viewed as the implicit suggestion that the leather/S&M scene is representative of the larger gay community, not to mention linking "serial killer" with "homosexuality" as tightly as "Saddam" and "9/11." Looking at the controversy now, when it seems that everyone except Larry Craig sees the diversity of gay experience, it seems almost quaint.

The film is in a limited theatrical re-release this month, with a brand-new digitally restored print, and will be released on a "special edition" DVD on September 18th. You can pre-order it from Amazon and other outlets.

Cruising, dir. William Friedkin, 1980 USA/West Germany, 102 min.

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