No two-dimensional film can hold Bono’s ego!

u23d.jpg

One of my first “real” concert-going experiences (no offense, Power Station!) was witnessing U2 at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia during its “Joshua Tree” tour.

Even though lead singer Bono was hobbled in an arm sling, the experience led to a passionate love affair with concert-going. I had since caught the band on two more occasions, but as their popularity (and egos) exploded, so did their stage shows. Their music and its messages (and U2 is nothing if not a band interested in sharing its beliefs to the masses) were consumed in a spectacle grand enough to embarrass a Cirque du Soleil clown.

So after multiple attempts in trying to recapture that initial magical evening, I walked away from subsequent U2 concerts and I still hadn’t found what I was looking for.

After witnessing “U23D,” now playing at the Dover Mall, all is forgiven.

The film allowed me to experience the band in ways that could not have been replicated even with backstage passes – from swooping shots of the stage, close-ups that make you feel you could reach out and strum bassist Adam Clayton’s guitar, and soaring panoramic views of capacity crowds in stadiums across South America.

And co-directors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington manage to weave just the right amount of intimacy and enormity to the fabric of their film. And what is most notable is that rarely does the 3-D aspect of the film feel like a gimmick as it does a logical extension of a band whose talent and ego cannot be held on a typical movie screen.

For those who have witnessed the latest digital 3-D incarnation, such as “A Nightmare Before Christmas” or “Beowulf,” you may already be aware that the days of the clunky cardboard red-and-blue glasses are long gone, replaced by a hipper gray-tinted wayfarer frame. The result is much easier on the retinas, and leaves little “ghosting,” a term used to describe the shadows that would appear when the distorted colors of a 3-D film did not quite match up.

As one who grew up during the time when 3-D made its mercifully brief “comeback,” (“Jaws 3-D,” “Friday the 13th Part 3-D,” “Amityville 3-D,” “Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syd,” “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone”), I can say this is the first 3-D film that did not feel as though it was constantly flaunting its gimmick. Sure, there are times when Bono oh-so-passionately reaches out to caress the camera during one of his songs, but I get the feeling he does the same think when looking into his bathroom mirror.

Through most of the movie’s 14-song set list, we view from countless vantage points, sometimes not even realizing that 3-D is in effect (it took about three crowd shots for me to realize those flailing arms impeding my stage view were actually concert goers and not the guys in the front row of the theater).

And when the stadium lights dim, the crowd becomes illuminated by the flickering LED of tens of thousands of cellphones, bobbing and waving like the lighters of yore.

Of course, all of the added dimension to the film would be for naught if it were not for such relevant showmen. Bono, Clayton, guitarist The Edge and drummer Larry Mullen still glide through their decades of hits (“Where the Streets Have No Name,” “One,” “Pride,” “Vertigo”), but tweak it ever-so-slightly to fit current world injustices the band feels it needs to shine a spotlight on (“Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” originally about Irish civil rights slaying, now blankets global political inequality).

Perhaps the best thing about the concert film, though, is that after we have sung along, raised our fists and stamped our feet, we can patiently wait until the very end instead of fretting about leaving just early enough to beat getting stuck in traffic for a good two hours at the end.

~ by usesoapfilm on March 4, 2008.

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