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U2: Rattle and Hum(1988)
A concert movie on an unprecedented scale. Rattle And Hum captures U2 – on and off the stage – during their triumphant Joshua Tree tour. From the giant Technicolor stadium celebrations to the black-and-white intensity of the indoor shows, this is U2 at their best. Follow the group across America, exploring new influences, playing with the legendary B.B. King, on a journey which takes them from Dublin to Graceland, from San Francisco to the streets of Harlem, from The Joshua Tree to Rattle And Hum.
For more about U2: Rattle and Hum and the U2: Rattle and Hum Blu-ray release, see U2: Rattle and Hum Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on August 13, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen, Jr.
Director: Phil Joanou
» See full cast & crew
U2: Rattle and Hum Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 13, 2008
There is no other way of putting it – U2 are the most successful rock band from the last century. From the Vatican to Tibet, they have been praised for their enormous contribution not only as musicians but as ambassadors of peace as well. Their legacy will be remembered forever.
Rattle and Hum is a documentary film about U2 and their 1987 North American tour following the release of the band's award-winning Joshua Tree. The film is a mix of behind-the-scenes footage where the members of U2 discuss their history and music as well as a collection of concert performances highlighting some of their greatest hits. The majority of the film is shot in black and white with a 16mm camera resulting in a heavily grainy, faux-documentary, look.
With this short description in mind and assuming that if you have even the slightest of interest in the music of U2 then you more than likely have been exposed to at least a fraction of Rattle and Hum we move forward to discussing where this film succeeds and where it fails.
There are two ways of approaching Rattle and Hum. You could focus on the music footage, comprised by some of U2's greatest hits, or, try to view the film strictly as a documentary looking to learn more about the band's outspoken stance on a number of political issues. Viewing Rattle and Hum as a film simply does not work, unless you are a die-hard U2 fan willing to swallow anything that has their name attached to it.
Seen strictly as a summation of U2's live gigs in the US between 1987-88 Rattle and Hum does offer some genuinely entertaining footage. Arguably the most exciting of them is the band's collaboration with R&B legend B.B. King culminating in an excellent performance of a song Bono first introduced in Ireland (When Love Comes To Town). Next is Bono's improvised performance in a Harlem church where the band delivers a top-notch acapella rendition of one of their greatest hits (I Still Haven't Found What I Am Looking For). Finally, it is the Sun Devil Stadium gig where U2 is seen in action driving thousands of their fans into a state of musical bliss.
Rattle and Hum becomes quite problematic when one attempts to view it as more than a set of concert gigs. The documentary part, which apparently was meant to be the core of the film, certainly does not deliver. In fact, as Roger Ebert noted in his famous review of the film, it is a mess. For a number of reasons.
The most obvious of them is the lack of anything valuable, or revealing if you will, that Rattle and Hum tells us about U2. Not their music, not their presence on the stage, I mean the band. Left to talk about their work the members of U2 are seen giggling, joking, and procrastinating without making the slightest effort to deliver on the documentary platform Rattle and Hum was apparently built upon. I remember the day when I first saw the film at a theater in Paris and how disappointed I was after the screening ended. I felt that there was so much Rattle and Hum could have done to promote U2 and their political agenda. Yet, it all turned out to be another big and flashy film about another big and prosperous superband.
Before all of you angry U2 fans begin bombarding my email box with messages asking why I opted to review this disc if I did not like the film I want to make one thing perfectly clear – this review does not evaluate the band's music. U2 have secured their place in the history annals of rock music and questioning their legacy is probably as ridiculous of an endeavor as one could come up with. Questioning what Paramount Pictures financed and how they promoted it as an entirely different story. Whether a fan of the band or not you would be hard pressed not to admit that Rattle and Hum is far from being what it pretends to be, a documentary film. At best it tells us what we already know – U2 sound as good live as they are in the recording studio.
U2: Rattle and Hum Blu-ray, Video Quality
Rattle and Hum belongs to Paramount's neutral slate of releases and as such it was introduced simultaneously on BD as well as on HDDVD before the studio made their controversial exclusivity move to the red camp...and then reconsidered. Needless to say a lot has changed since then. What is truly important however is how Paramount treated Rattle and Hum? Did they do it justice or did they produce a mediocre disc? A quick look at the reviews published all over the Net reveals that just about everyone has a different opinion on the matter, from outspoken fans of the band to those who consider themselves casual viewers.
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and encoded in 1080p using the now abandoned by the studio MPEG-2 codec Paramount's Rattle and Hum is very much a documentary feature made for the big screen. It is heavily-grainy, at times looking worn-out, and undoubtedly different. A byproduct of mixing 16mm footage with 32mm mm footage (Kodak) the film does have a specific look which I believe a lot of folks are having a difficult time coming to terms with. I understand that certain people had different ideas how Rattle and Hum should look but suffice to say the BD disc offers a truthful to the master print replica which keeps all of the basics intact. Furthermore, the numerous calls some have unleashed for a new and cleaner print are very much an indicator that there is a sizable amount of viewers, I would not use the term film aficionados, who apparently expect HD transfers to deliver a specific type of look which has more to do with digital photography than film. I hope the studios and their encoders remains deaf to any such calls as while what I see on the BD for Rattle and Hum may not be reference quality allow me to assure you that it is far and away from the disaster some claim it is.
All of this being said, the image quality of this release is certainly better than what the SDVD reveals. The black and white scenes offer a varying degree of contrast (the blacks during the Memphis footage for example are quite different than the blacks seen in the Irish segments in the beginning of Rattle and Hum). Digital noise, also contrary to what some reviewers claim, isn't an issue. Detail, as intended by the creators of the film, is preserved and despite what has been said it is not an area of concern for this release. To sum it all up, Rattle and Hum on BD looks as good as the original source materials allow. Plain and simple.
U2: Rattle and Hum Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The BD for Rattle and Hum offers two tracks: English: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and English: DTS-ES Matrix 6.1 and both of those capture the band's intensive live style of performing flawlessly. The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track is dynamic, offering a great deal of depth, and impressively crisp. During the final performance at the Sun Devil Stadium the audio treatment is simply superb. Bono's vocals are balanced with excellent resonance while the supporting music perfectly matches the intensity of his singing. Slightly earlier in the film where U2 are seen and heard record an acapella performance in a Harlem church you will be similarly impressed with the clarity of the choirs' singing and the manner in which the music reverberates. Indeed, this is a very good sounding disc without any issues that I could detect.
U2: Rattle and Hum Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Aside from a gallery of previews for other Paramount titles and a teaser for the main feature there is nothing else to be found here.
U2: Rattle and Hum Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Rattle and Hum is a mandatory addition to the collection of any hardcore U2 fan. I am not so sure this is the case for those who might be looking for the "documentary" part the film was meant to deliver. As I mentioned in the review my initial mixed feelings for this film are still…mixed. As years go by it is undoubtedly great to have a film where more or less the glamor of this most successful rock band has been captured. But this is probably all you will find here. For better or worse.
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