Patti Smith: Dream of Life (DVD Review)4 Jan, 2009 By: Holly J. Wagner
Box Office $0.03 million
Born of the perfect boredom of suburbia, Patti Smith is known to fans as a deeply emotional, hard-rocking voice spanning several decades of rock ‘n’ roll history.
Smith is a talent that could only thrive in the rarified atmosphere of the late 20th Century, starting with the beat generation and continuing today. She laid the groundwork for artists such as Chrissie Hynde and even Madonna.
While this Sundance Award-winning film opens with Smith dryly listing the major events of her early life, it soon progresses to a more intimate portrait of an artist, her influences and family. But it’s a calculated intimacy: We never have the feeling that Smith is not in control.
That’s at the bottom of her success as well — she has a self-assurance of someone who could only have been a star. Her determination to examine herself and her world through art ooze from every pore and extend from music to poetry, painting and photography. She’s a force of nature. She’s also very aware of being appreciated in her own lifetime, unlike many of her heroes.
Vignettes of Smith and company at home and on the road are spliced among performance clips. She reminisces about family members and collaborations with artists whose names highlight the eras: Allan Ginsburg, Robert Mapplethorpe, Billy Crystal. She even plays a casual duet with playwright and actor Sam Shepard.
The film closely reflects Smith’s life and work as an existential celebration of chaos. Anything that doesn’t serve art or family gets little of her attention. Music and art are both tethers to reality and expressions of life that make it survivable and worth living.
Fans will be delighted with the insider access and the insights into Patti Smith’s work. Those who don’t know her work will get a stunning introduction.