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U2: Rattle and Hum

The mid-to-late '80s were a turbulent time for pop music. New bands continuously pole-vaulted onto the record charts, trying to steal some of the public's dollars away from the Michael Jackson juggernaut. Musical styles changed almost daily, and this diversity is the reason that so many bands from this era faded into obscurity so quickly -- most artists were unable to keep up with the ever-shifting "in vogue" sound. But not every band was a casualty of the times: in the dozen years or so that have passed since U2: Rattle and Hum vanished from multiplexes, Phil Joanou's mesmerizing documentary/concert film about the most successful Irish band in history has not aged in any discernible way. The music still sounds as fresh and vibrant as it did then, the performances hold up well... heck, even the hair styles still look good, proving once-and-for-all that U2's goal has always been satisfying themselves, rather than adhering to an arbitrary standard of "coolness." Rattle and Hum captures the excitement and energy of the band's post-"Joshua Tree" period, and Joanou's lenses allows us to share the band's fascination with Americana ("Heartland"), international politics ("Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Pride (In the Name of Love)," "Silver and Gold"), and religion (including a stellar gospel arrangement of their hit single "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," performed with an all-black Harlem choir; this performance alone justifies the purchase of the disc). The rich 16mm black-and-white cinematography looks gorgeous, if a shade grainy, but the audio is absolutely stellar: this is a disc that begs to be cranked as loud as you can stand it. The DVD has no special features to speak of, apart from a single theatrical trailer, but you'll be hard-pressed to find another film which communicates so much about a group of people using only the language of song. The music says it all, folks, and the message is clear: these guys rock... with or without you.
—Joe Barlow

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