Still from Stephen Sebring’s Dream of Life

We assign Patti Smith’s first album, Horses (1975), in our Writing New York
class. It’s part of Bryan’s “Beats to the Punks” sequence, which runs
from Allen Ginsberg through Bob Dylan to the Velvet Underground and
Smith. Bryan’s written some posts about Smith here and on The Great Whatsit blog, where he’s also described his Beats to the Punks sequence. This year, we’re thinking about assigning the volume devoted to the album in Continuum International Publishing’s 33 1/3 Series. We used the volume on The Velvet Underground and Nico last spring; Bryan described his initial reactions to the book here last November.

With luck, we’ll also be able to draw from a DVD of Dream of Life, Stephen Sebring’s documentary about Smith, which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival and will be playing from August 6-18 here in New York at the Film Forum. It will also be shown at the American Cinematheque Rock doc series
in Santa Monica on August 29 and can be seen this fall in Columbus, Denver, Saint Louis, San Francisco, and San Diego. If you’re in Paris, you can catch it every Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at Le Cinema Du Pantheon
(13 rue Victor Cousin Paris France 75005) from now until April 5, 2009.

Sebring, a fashion photographer, has been filming Smith for the past 12 years, and according to an article by Terrence Rafferty in today’s New York Times, Dream of Life “bears almost no resemblance to any other documentary about the punk-rock heroes of Ms. Smith’s turbulent era.” Shot on 16mm rather than video, the film, writes Rafferty, “looks handmade, as funky (and occasionally as baffling) as movies of the family vacation.” The film’s website includes images from “Objects of Life,” an “installation” of photographs by Sebring that accompanied the film at Sundance.

An interview with Sebring was published at indieWIRE. You can find a video interview with Sebring at the sundance.org website. We’ll post our reactions to the film next month.

Meanwhile, here’s a piece on the film from the Sundance Channel: