January 12, 2009

Patti Smith: Dream of Life


Reviewer: Walker Koppelman-Brown
Rating (out of 5): ****

It is rare when a film can spill out of traditional cinematic borders and into more ambiguous artistic territory and still succeed. A primary example of this is Dream of Life, Steven Sebring's documentary on Patti Smith. While people will know her name first and foremost in the music world, they will be surprised at her other accomplishments in the arts. This concept of well-roundedness, interdisciplinary artistic ambitions, is what makes Dream of Life such an enjoyable experience.

There is a smooth and subtle rhythm floating between photos, black and white footage, and abstract images, book-ended by clips from Smith's live shows that truly reflects the films title. It's also a very personal experience. Sebring was able to keep a miraculously close tether to Smith during the filming, but I never got the sense that he was stepping on her toes. Nor does one feel hit over the head with a need to grasp her importance as a musician. The film covers Smith's career very delicately and without pretension.

Genuine interactions with artists such as Flea, Thom Yorke, and Sam Shepard support this personal fabric that lies underneath. However, it's the overall dream-like style of the film that makes it so successful, and allows the audience to walk away with a more spiritual understanding of Patti Smith and her work.

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Posted by cphillips at January 12, 2009 1:43 PM
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