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 Sebrings 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 Lets 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