Combustible Celluloid
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With: Patti Smith, Sam Shepard, Lenny Kaye, Oliver Ray, Tony Shanahan, Philip Glass, Flea, Tom Verlaine, Jay Dee Daugherty, Lenny Kaye, Benjamin Smoke, Jackson Smith, Jesse Smith, Michael Stipe
Written by: Steven Sebring
Directed by: Steven Sebring
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 109
Date: 01/20/2008

Patti Smith: Dream of Life (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Peace & Noise

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filmmaker Steven Sebring gets extra credit for trying something different with this new documentary on "the godmother of punk," Patti Smith. Rather than the usual talking heads tracing Smith's life story, Sebring presents a kind of cinematic stream-of-consciousness, with moods and ideas bumping up against one another in interesting ways. We get some terrific concert footage, some poetry, some passionate political rants against G.W. Bush, some visits with family and friends, and some quiet moments at home. (Sebring apparently took more than a decade to film it, mostly in black-and-white.) I suppose this method was meant to match Smith's meandering masterpiece, the 1975 LP Horses, but in realityit lacks the album's ferocity, and its 109 minutes can feel very longand shapeless. Moreover, if you come into the film not knowing muchabout Smith, you'll face many unanswered questions. But, miraculously,as the film winds to a close, Smith comes into sharper focus than shewould have if we had been given mere biographical details.

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