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Dream of Life

18 customer reviews

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(Jan 13, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Eleven years in the making, Patti Smith: Dream of Life is a unique and intimate portrait of the renowned singer, songwriter, poet and activist.  Patti Smith s music, poetry, and politics are fearless, funny, raw, and original.
Photographer- director Steven Sebring creates a beautiful collage of images, memories and performances illuminating the complexities and capturing the essence of this distinctive, legendary icon. The film follows Patti Smith s punk-icon roots in the 70s through the trials of daily life and untimely deaths that have formed her life and art. Smith tells the story of her early days in New York City, the people that we dearest to her (her late husband Fred Sonic Smith, Allen Ginsburg, Robert Mapplethorpe, and others), her family, and the political causes for which she so deeply struggled.   
Through beautiful cinematography, (both black and white, and color), Sebring captures the essence nature of this vital and relevant American artist.

A conventional documentary wouldn't suit a timeless iconoclast like Patti Smith. Photographer-turned-filmmaker Steven Sebring's Dream of Life honors her originality through his own unique vision. Narrated by Smith in her unmistakable New Jersey drawl and shot primarily in grainy black and white, he revisits his subject's storied past through her reflective present. In the mid-1990s, when Sebring began filming, she was recovering from the loss of her husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith, guitarist for the MC5, while moving with their children, Jesse and Jackson, from Detroit to New York City. Over the next 11 years, the devoted director accompanies her as she travels to London, Rome, and other cities where she performs, speaks out against the Iraq War, and visits sites that hold special meaning, particularly the graves of poets. Along the way, she looks in on her proud parents and remembers departed friends, like Robert Mapplethorpe, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, while Sebring intercuts clips and stills from her years as a punk pioneer (Michael Stipe, Sam Shepard, and Flea also put in appearances). As Smith notes in passing, "Life isn't some vertical or horizontal line... it's not neat," and Sebring’s jazz improvisation of a film follows a similar pattern, putting a feminist spin on vérité-style musician profiles from Don't Look Back (a Smith favorite) to Let’s Get Lost. If the pace is relaxed to a fault, the images are often intriguing, the performances are always inspiring, and Smith makes for an especially gracious guide into her own illustrious life. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Patti Smith
  • Directors: Steven Sebring
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Palm Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: January 13, 2009
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,152 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By M Q Battle on January 21, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I was fortunate to see this film in a local art cinema with a talkback by the videographer, Sebring. Even not being a die-hard Smith fan, I thoroughly enjoyed the evocative, grainy film technique as well as Patti's voiceover musings and clips from concerts. The film was shot over a number of years by Sebring, her close friend, allowing glimpses into her persona we mere mortals would not otherwise be given, and her sharing of her art, poetry, friends and family were rolled in to the whole quite cohesively, interspersed with loose-styled video. On the whole, while I expected a standard concert film and to be somewhat bored, I found myself involved and moved, and very glad to have seen it. I've ordered the DVD to watch again, something I rarely do with films.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Gaylen Halbert on February 24, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Steven Sebring has crafted a wonderful film that can be appreciated by Patti fans and anyone who can recognize a documentary that was done with great respect and affection for its subject. Don't expect a lot of concert footage. There are however numerous, albeit brief, musical snippets that enhance the story. This is a DVD I will never part with.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Karen S. Hansen on February 5, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Patti Smith Dream Of Life

Steven Sebring's documentary film about the "Godmother of Punk," artist, poet, political activist, widow, and mother Patti Smith, is an artfully rendered collage of her life. It took 11 years to film. Often I felt as if she was speaking directly to me, as she offered up items and places and people and memories that were central to her life. As a fan of 30 years, I felt privileged to receive this generous colllaborative portrait of Patti Smith's private life. Sebring's cinematography was unusually beautiful and innovative. During some segments which were spoken, the volume was normal, or even a bit enhanced. Some parts were filmed very effectively with no sound whatsoever, most notably one scene that showed her onstage in Japan before a large crowd of very young fans- only Patti singing, gesticulating with her arms outstretched; fans jumping, waving, cheering- all in slow motion and bathed in red light. When the song ends, we see her slowly bring her hands up to cover her face, and she turns away, leaving her audience ecstatic. This was the closest I've ever seen a film clip come to portraying her shamanic onstage presence. As she brings us to meet her parents, we discover their remaining closeness, and that mom and dad have attended her shows for many years (until her dad went deaf in one ear, and she had to begin playing private acoustic shows just for him). I won't give any more of the film away, except to note that her reading of a poem she wrote after visiting Tibet was incredibly moving, and even brought the "Godmother of Punk" to tears.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Katherine McCarthy on September 18, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I love Patti Smith - in all her mediums - and have followed her career from the very early '70's when I saw a TV special on WOR in New York City one Sunday night. She was describing the graffiti on subway cars (rampant at the time) like a new age Jackson Pollack. I was in High School, struggling to be a writer. I was captivated. I immediately sought out her poetry. She wasn't in rock band. She was writing about rock in Creem magazine, and doing animated poetry readings like Rock 'n' Rimbaud at a former Welfare Hotel, the Diplomat, with the earliest drag queen performance artists. I followed her as she started to do poetry readings with Lenny Kaye strumming on guitar, then to Max's with the addition of Richard Sohl.

I didn't get around to seeing this film at the Film Forum. My schedule was crazy. I knew in advance I would buy it on DVD. I'm glad I saw it by myself, at home, in control of my environment. It's a dreamscape, and aptly named. Don't bother watching if you don't have the time or the attention span. This is detail work. Patti's life and commentary is like a tapestry, weaving in and out of remembrances. Tread by thread. Thought by thought.

Patti is a lovable raconteur. In the early days, she would often stop her shows to tell a bad joke. Like a kid. Then proceed to sing as if possessed. She still does. The film takes its time to weave in her remembrances - the beloved husband and father taken too soon; her parents, working class, and loving, with their aged dog; her ambition to get out of Jersey and into New York; art - in all forms - to embrace the word, the vision, the textures of paint, photography, song, three chord rock & roll. When the film breaks away from the reverie with glimpses of shamanistic performance it's jarring but riveting.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By jab on March 21, 2009
Format: DVD
I've been a fan of Patti Smith since I was 15 and after seeing her twice in concert, I jumped at seeing this film but had to wait until It was released on dvd. Three months later I find myself still watching it, looking for things I didn't notice before. This woman is the real thing, her early days at NYC's CBGB's, the retirement with Fred Sonic Smith, her children, the loss of family friends and her resurgence in 1996 with Gone Again.

This film was insightful to both Patti Smith fans and also managed to recruit new ones as well. I love when she's on the couch with her parents and her mother requests songs. The deleted scenes are gems and the interview with Jackson Smith, son and heir to the legacies of both Patti as well as the late Fred Sonic Smith. Jackson not only sounds like his mother but his face bares a nod to his father as well. The same can be said for Jesse. It's classic to see her playing piano with the keys pounding out her mother's 1975 classic birdland.

Watch it, you'll enjoy every bit of this film.
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