Is It Getting Better?

I’ve always had the impression that U2 hoped Rattle and Hum the movie (1988) would be more like The Last Waltz (1978). In interviews afterward, Bono expressed his unhappiness with the way the rockumentary turned out and the direction by the young Phil Joanou. Sure, there are embarrassing bits in the film (why is Larry crying over Elvis?) and it is at times campy (“Rock and Roll, Stop the Traffic!”), but there’s still some terrific concert footage. (What disturbs me are the shots of the fans who are now well into their 40s. Was it really that long ago?)

By the end of the ’80s, U2 had exhausted their American-roots phase and wondered what would come next. Or would anything come next? As next month’s rock-doc From the Sky Down should reveal more fully, the band was very close to dissolving over creative tensions. I’d read about this all before, but this film airing on Showtime on October 29 (20 years after the release of Achtung Baby) and directed by Davis Guggenheim should be entertaining—at the very least for the U2 faithful. And perhaps it will finally deliver the sort of movie the band always wanted. (Notice in the trailer how Waiting for Superman is not mentioned as part of Guggenheim’s oeuvre.)

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