Dispatch direct from Sundance
By Cathleen Rountree, critic and film journalist
“U2 3D”: the event of Sundance ’08. Swaggering up the roundabout in front of the Eccles Performing Arts Theatre at Park City’s high school at 9 P.M.–– beefed-up bodyguard his shadow –– Bono, sporting Hunter S. Thompson transparent orange-tinted wraparounds, shook 20 hands, one of them mine. It was a “Beautiful Day,” a memorable moment.
When he reached a baby in a pram, Bono squatted down, looked him or her in the eye: “Thanks for coming! Are you cold,” he said, acknowledging the 10-degree chill.
Ah, just the opening the mother had waited for, “We don’t have tickets and we really want to see the movie!”
“How many in your party?”
“We can get you in. He’ll take care of it,” he assured the woman and pointed to an official-looking fellow.
As I turned around and headed into the theatre, Al Gore walked by me. Yes, the should-have-been president. No security, no Tipper, just another man beside him.
Inside, the theatre went crazy when U2 walked in. Gore was already posing for photos. The concert was scheduled for 9:45. As 10 o’clock came and went, I wondered when the film would commence and to that end, why they didn’t simply ask people to sit down. Then, surrounded by his entourage, Mr. Sundance himself, Robert Redford, strolled in and the audience went wild. Naturally, we couldn’t begin without our host.
Geoffrey Gilmore, the Festival Director took to the stage and invited the filmmakers (Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington), as well as the band, up to say a few words and introduce U2 in 3D. Bono said, “There’s something fitting about being here in a high school; we are a high school band, after all,” he laughed.
Finally, the house lights dimmed and we donned our 3D glasses as “U2 3D”’s opening credits rolled. The film comprises seven 2006 Latin American Vertigo concerts shot on location in São Paulo, Mexico City, and Buenos Aires, among other cities (70,000 people each). Bono called it “a love song to Latin America.” The light show and staging are first class with a red and black color scheme and an audience-embracing horseshoe-shaped platform on which Bono, Edge, and Larry pranced, played guitar, and for one song, beat a standing drum like a Taiko drummer.
The band performs 14 songs, including “Pride (In the Name of Love,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “All Because of You,” “Vertigo,” and “Yahweh.” During “City of Blinding Lights,” in solidarity with the concert audiences, many among the audience of 1200 illumined our cell phones.
The 3D effects were, in the original sense of the word, awesome. At times I reached out and “touched” band and audience members. And occasionally it felt as if I needed to duck to avoid the neck of Larry’s bass guitar. The cinematic experience of U2 is obviously different from a “live” performance. But Saturday’s event proved the best of both worlds: an unprecedented virtual nearness to the rocking Irish troubadours on stage thanks to 3D technology and the actual proximity to them two rows in front of me. I watched them watch themselves.
During the Q&A after the film, an audience member asked if the band might consider “doing a “deeper” show, like the Beatles in “Yellow Submarine.” Bono seemed a bit put off at first, but he responded with what seemed obvious to most of us: “Underneath there is a narrative running: social activism, human rights, non-violence. Taking human rights on the road is not a flippant thing to do,” he reasoned. “I think you might know that in this country.”
Isn’t it about time the Swedish Academy awarded Bono the Nobel Peace Prize?