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Patti Smith: Dream of Life

patti-smith-1978

The legend's past comes to life in a moving doc

Steven Sebring's film took more than a decade to make

But patience has served the filmmaker well. Dream of Life is one of the most captivating documentaries of the year. And, like its subject, quite hypnotic. It’s a work that sits with you long after you leave the theater. Smith, the outspoken rocker/poet/spoken word artist, has been in the limelight for decades. She stormed onto the music scene in the ’70s, hung out with the likes of Robert Mapplethorpe and William S. Burroughs and made a name for herself the seminal album Horses, among others. The film, like Smith’s own creativity, seems to wander through an esoteric, emotionally rich mine field.

Through archival concert footage and first-hand interviews, we’re taken into Smith’s life and times. But Sebring avoids the linear approach. Instead, we’re treated to a lyrical, stream of consciousness. Among the many musings, the rocker shares her pain over the early death of her husband, Fred (Sonic) Smith and then her brother. She also waxes philosophical over the loss of close pal Robert Mapplethorpe and several other prominent artists—Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Burroughs. What we all walk away with is a mind-bending experience; a portrait of a fearless activist whose creativity, humor and ability to dive deep into the soul—and remain there and explore its often messy surroundings—somehow sheds light on a way of survival, and way of being, in fact, that most would aspire to. Unforgettable. Rated R. (****)

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