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Even Better Than the Real Thing

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There is no better example of the mixture of feelings generated by the concert film "U2 3D," rendered in the glorious third dimension, than seeing Bono, dressed as he is in his techno-goth-raver get-up, reach out to touch my face during the excellent "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and tell me to "wipe your tears away." The moment, nearing parody, stands as one of the most impressively cringe-inducing in my life.

No rock group is better suited for such a film, and not just because of the convenient symmetry that makes for a catchy title like "U2 3D," or because the group is considered, mostly by itself, as "the best band in the world." Among other reasons, both band and cinematic technique have the singular ability to be alternately amazing and horrifying, given the circumstances.

From a purely technical standpoint, "U2 3D" is an undeniable success, the most realistic re-creation of a live concert imaginable till now. (A non-3-D release of the film has not been planned.) The new technology pioneered by 3ality Digital makes the viewer a member of the audience who gets to move around in a point of view that is both immersed in the event and free of its usual constraints. You are there, with sweat, lighters, Bono's falsetto, all in your face, from the relative safety of a theater seat.

The film was recorded during several stops on the band's Vertigo Tour concerts in Latin America, but the footage is seamlessly integrated into what feels like a single event. Bono and company wear almost the same clothing throughout, which may have been intentional for the filming or just part of their style. Either way, it helps the illusion that this is one set rather than a selection of their best performances.

Objectively the film is more curious, especially in the way the technology heightens every aspect of the experience, including the band's penchant for unabashed sentimentality as rock 'n' roll saviors. Late in the film, during the brief number "Coexist," the word is projected on a jumbo screen with the letters "c," "x" and "t" made to look like the Muslim crescent moon, the Star of David and the Christian cross, respectively.

That's just the kind of literal-minded 3-D detail -- like the reading of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the band's endless array of feel-good messages and symbols — that could send anyone into a state of vertigo, whether from joy or chagrin. (G) 85 min. S



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