The title says it all. Compact and exuberant, “U2 3D” may be no more than a pint-sized concert film with a lustrous surface, but the lensing is so vibrant and the music so buoyant, even nonfans may find their eyes popping and their heads bobbing. Clocking in at under an hour, Cannes preview reps a rousing warm-up act for the full 80-minute version, which will be shopped exclusively to 3-D venues later this year; whether the pic’s visual novelty will be enough to attract the Irish rockers’ huge fan base in significant numbers remains an open question (with or without ancillary).
Unlike 1988’s “U2: Rattle and Hum,” which mixed performance footage with band interviews, the current docu, by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington (latter also helmed the 1992 vid compilation “U2: Achtung Baby”), is 100% concert film, making for a purer, if perhaps less definitive, experience. Pic does eventually tap into lead singer Bono’s well-known passion for social advocacy and global change, but strictly through song and background visuals, never leaving the stage or disrupting the context.
Shot during the band’s 2005-06 “Vertigo” tour (over several concerts in Mexico City and Buenos Aires), pic opens with an easy hook in the form of mainstream-friendly hits “Vertigo” and “Beautiful Day.” Tougher, politically loaded songs such as “Love and Peace or Else” and “Bullet the Blue Sky” soon follow; at one point, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is projected and somberly recited on a giant screen. Yet so complete is the viewer’s immersion in the performance that these notes feel authentically powerful rather than didactic.
High-def cameras wielded by Peter Anderson and Tom Krueger swoop overhead with an enthusiasm to match the crowd’s, their arms upraised and their excitement infectious throughout. Dynamic editing, constant camera movement and inventive application of 3-D effects all combine to create an intense but fluid visual layering, one that heightens, rather than detracts from, audience involvement.
Yet even eye candy this ravishing would amount to little without the raw exhilaration of Bono’s delivery, or the palpable sense of communion between the musician and his fellow performers, especially the Edge (handling guitar, keyboard and backup vocals). It’s that communion, which hardcore fans would no doubt claim to be spiritual as well as musical, that makes “U2 3D” altogether irresistible. But impassioned performances of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” and “With or Without You” certainly don’t hurt.