Directed by Phil Joanou (THREE O'CLOCK HIGH, FINAL ANALYSIS, STATE OF GRACE), RATTLE AND HUM captures U2 in mid-ascension, touring the United States in support of their landmark album, The Joshua Tree. As a documentary, the film doesn't reveal much about the band itself, but as a concert film it's top-notch. Opening the film with a cover of "Helter Skelter,"...read more
Directed by Phil Joanou (THREE O'CLOCK HIGH, FINAL ANALYSIS, STATE OF GRACE), RATTLE AND HUM captures U2 in mid-ascension, touring the United States in support of their landmark album, The Joshua Tree. As a documentary, the film doesn't reveal much about the band itself, but as a concert
film it's top-notch.
Opening the film with a cover of "Helter Skelter," singer Bono announces: "This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles; we're stealing it back." An apt statement: in 1988, U2 was drawing numerous comparisons to the Fab Four, and seemed poised to claim the throne as rock-and-roll's angry
poets-in-residence. Playing songs from their most successful album, The Joshua Tree (arguably one of the best albums of the 1980s), RATTLE AND HUM shows U2 before they began believing their "important band" hype. Though peppered with Bono's occasional political diatribes (including his now-famous
line, "Am I buggin' ya? I don't mean to BUG ya!"), the live performances are uniformly good and sound fantastic, thanks to the wizardry of legendary rock producer Jimmy Iovine. As a bonus, RATTLE AND HUM debuts a handful of new songs written on the road; these often showcase the band's growing
willingness to experiment with their sound, as in the gospel version of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and the B.B. King vehicle, "When Love Comes to Town". (This experimentation would later snowball, leading to the band reinventing itself on such albums as Achtung Baby and Zooropa.)
Known for his cinematic flash and kinetic camera work, director Joanou films the members of U2 not just larger than life, but as rock-and-roll gods. Often shooting into bright stage lights, Bono and company are typically seen only as sweaty silhouettes, giving them an almost mythic aura. Shot
largely in black and white, RATTLE AND HUM looks and sounds so good that it might actually convert non-fans. Unfortunately, Joanou's interviewing skills don't match his directing chops--the conversations with the band represent the film's least interesting moments, with the result being that
viewers receive very little information about the band members' identities (save that of Bono, of course). Thankfully, these are few and relatively brief. RATTLE AND HUM was accompanied by a soundtrack combining live tracks with studio recordings, many of which do not appear in the film.
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