Patti Smith as Renaissance woman in intimate film

Sat Feb 9, 2008 9:30pm EST
 
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - Patti Smith hates labels, but if you had to choose a phrase to describe the singer, poet, political activist and painter, it might be Renaissance woman.

An intimate documentary about her life and work made over 12 years shows the 61-year-old artist veer from reflective commentator who ruminates on politics, family and death, to intense performer who sheds tears and spits with rage on stage.

Made by Steven Sebring, the mostly black-and-white "Patti Smith: Dream of Life" gets unusually close to its subject. Experimental camera work and editing makes for a fittingly unconventional portrait of one of the pioneers of punk music.

"It's not a rock 'n' roll film, it's not a concert film, it's a humanistic film," Smith told reporters on Saturday after the movie was screened at the Berlin Film Festival.

Sebring, who became a close friend of Smith's over the long filming period, said recording her became "like a drug." He amassed so much footage that editing took over a year.

"It was a hard film to tame," he said.

Smith was asked whether she liked being labeled as a punk rocker by the media.

"I have, since my first record, said right on the record that I was beyond labels, beyond gender, independent, and I don't like to be called any label.   Continued...

 
<p>Patti Smith poses during a photocall to present the film 'Patti Smith: Dream of Life' running at the 58th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 9, 2008. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele</p>