Patti Smith: Dream of Life Steven Sebring

Patti Smith: Dream of Life Steven Sebring
Depending on your point of view, this portrait of the proto-punk pioneer will be moving, annoying or both at once. I’m of the latter category — somewhat nonplussed by her more confused statements but admiring of her willingness to be herself and refusal to ever say die.

Shot in evocative (bordering on pretentious) black and white, the film culls footage taken at home and on the road over a ten-year period. Children grow up, Tokyo blurs into Israel and the memories and beliefs of a lifetime are spilled out, from Robert Mapplethorpe to Fred "Sonic” Smith to family and friends and back again.

You’ll argue over the veracity of the technique — a wannabe-naïf aesthetic that’s either apropos to the subject or precious beyond compare — and a few of Patti’s "shoot blindly hit something maybe” remarks don’t serve the purpose of coherently explaining herself. But that might be the point. The woman who blundered into controversy with "Rock n Roll Nigger” is no stranger to incriminating herself with her good intentions, and in that sense the film is pure Patti: a depiction of a woman who lives as she pleases and doesn’t give a fuck if you see things her way.

Which is not to say she’s an oblivious bully — she’s deeply empathetic. Her ideas may be slightly askew but her aim is true and she’s true to aim. And as debate has always raged about her, you won’t know what to think of this movie and its sincerely intended but not always successful attempt at explaining someone who’s groping to explain herself.

I don’t know if it’s a masterpiece but it’s pretty interesting as both the tribute of a devoted fan and a case history for both subject and filmmaker. (Films We Like)