In the terrain of rock bands, implosion or explosion is seemingly inevitable. U2 has defied the gravitational pull towards destruction; this band has endured and thrived. This documentary asks the question why.
U2: Achtung Baby offers a previously unobtainable level of insight into the band during the recording of their most dynamic and well respected album. Via the use of live footage, long forgotten videos....
Previously, the lyrics in "Pride (In the Name of Love)" have set MLK's death as "Early morning, April 4." In the movie Bono sings "Early evening, April 4" correcting the historical error in the original recording. See more »
In some scenes, U2 are shown for a short period of time playing to an empty stadium. This is mainly due to the fact that U2 had agreed to be filmed playing a show to an empty stadium so they could get close-ups from on-stage. See more »
The peculiar thing about this report is that I am not a rock fan, not by a long shot. Of course, I could not be allowed to live in San Francisco without some appreciation for the Grateful Dead, but that's about it.
When it comes to U2, I know far more about Bono's commendable social activities than of the band's performances.
A labored preamble is necessary to put this in context: "U2 3D" has simply knocked me - a passionate fan of opera and classical music - on my limited-crossover backside. It is a spectacular, musically and visually superb experience, certain to enchant any classical-music fan... if only the fan is not too fanatic to stay away. Watching it, I kept wishing for the "Ring" to be produced with this kind of passion, commitment, hanging ten every moment, and the creation of such stunning images. An important added bonus: unlike other rock films, this one is not deafening, not even in the IMAX setting.
For over a quarter-century, says the PR release, U2 has been recognized not only for their musical innovation, but for their incomparable gift for reaching millions of fans through new technologies. "U2 3D" - the first digital 3-D, multi-camera, real-time production - reflects the band's longstanding embrace of technology and its belief that "U2 3D" has the potential to revolutionize digital 3D technology. Marrying advanced digital 3-D imagery and 5.1 Surround Sound with the unique excitement of a live U2 concert, "U2 3D" takes viewers on an extraordinary cinematic journey, a quantum leap beyond traditional concert films.
Directed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington, "U2 3D" is a production of 3ality Digital Entertainment starring Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr.
I would detail my rapture about the screening of this most stunning of concert films, but I was pre-empted: read Eliot Van Buskirk's Wired report -
"With 3-D glasses trained on the Imax screen at the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas, I felt I was experiencing more of the U2 concert from my theater chair than I would have in person. Chalk it up to the impossible camera angles, the breathtaking close-ups and panoramas, or the convincing nature of the latest 3-D technology, but I was really there: watching guitarist-keyboardist The Edge play a Fender Rhodes from a vantage point 4 feet above his head, seeing lead singer Bono's hand reach out to the crowd, and flying through a massive stadium lit up by thousands of cellphones waving in unison like a school of glowing sea creatures.
"The capacity crowds filling these South American soccer stadiums go absolutely mad for the music of U2. Their hands wave to the beat just a few feet in front of you. Their enthusiasm is wildly infectious.
"Every development in the history of cinema has always been about making the experience more realistic, whether going from silent to talkies, or black-and-white to color," said John Rodell, the producer I spoke with outside the theater. "We see the world in 3-D, so this is a natural progression, now that the technological limitations have been conquered."
"The 3-D format goes a long way toward making the movie great, but the film would not have been nearly as powerful with the cameras pointed at most other bands. U2's musicians are masterful performers, and the epic nature of their songs and stage act lends itself perfectly to larger-than-life treatment.
"Still, watching a movie is a passive experience; to keep viewers fully engaged for more than an hour, Sassoon Film Design added a smattering of clever visual effects somewhat reminiscent of the square that Uma Thurman's character draws in the air in 'Pulp Fiction'. Post-production staffers also added animated versions of U2's backdrop videos - most notably a series of icons suggesting that the world's major religions are one. To capture multiple band members in the same frame, the filmmakers added as many as five 3-D layers to the final cut.
"Other than that, U2 3D includes little visual or audio trickery. The band insisted that no audio overdubs be included; every note in the film was played live (although for on-stage close-ups, U2 agreed to be filmed playing one show to an empty stadium). "I could make my cat sound like a good singer with Pro Tools," said Rodell, "but we didn't use any of that. What you see there are those guys, playing that night, in front of 90,000 people."
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