I finally saw this biopic today. It was visually beautiful and verbally acute. So many people have written great reviews of it, and all I want to do right now is make a hot drink and read in bed, so I’m not going to write much. I loved how Stephen Sebring’s film steers away from the conventional traits of a biographical film, instead capturing more arbitrary, more insightful, moments of Patti Smith’s life. Made over 11 years we see her children growing up, we see her eating hamburgers and spending time with her since deceased parents. Amongst some action-packed footage of Smith singing riotously on stage there are some great outdoor scenes, on the beach, and paying a visit to Ginsberg’s grave at the foot of Shelley’s. It was funny to observe how her run down white shirts and dirty black boots are actually Prada and Comme Des Garçons. Bob Dylan, Michael Stipe, and Flea (of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) make appearances amongst others, as well as a deeper engagement with the legacy with writers like Arthur Rimbauld and William Blake.
Viewers are granted permission to piece together all of the vibrant and gifted individuals that have informed Smith’s artistic vision, helping us to build a fuller picture of this incredible woman. We see some of the process behind her music, her painting, her politics, her sexuality and her poetry.
Smith says she is often asked what it feels like to be a rock icon. She says the question makes her think of Mount Rushmore.
Words: Jack Cullen