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Patti Smith Hits the Big Screen in Untraditional Rock Doc: Exclusive Clips

July 30, 2008 5:05 PM ET

From 1996 to 2007, photographer Steven Sebring periodically filmed Patti Smith as she traveled the globe playing concerts, visiting the graves of poets and hanging out with friends like Bob Dylan and Michael Stipe. The end result is Patti Smith: Dream of Life, a film that opens on August 6th in New York and in other cities soon after. With no interviews, little narration and a non-chronological story line, the atmospheric film is not a traditional rock documentary. "Filming over so many years was great because the scenes are like they came out of her memory," says Sebring. "It's like her Alice in Wonderland."

(Click above to watch exclusive clips from the film, including Smith prepping for a show with Bob Dylan and performance footage, and keep reading to check out the trailer).

Sebring first met Smith when he went to shoot her for Spin magazine in 1995, shortly after her husband Fred "Sonic" Smith of the MC5 died. "We immediately had a connection," he says. "She's this cute, low key, attractive girl offstage. When I saw her onstage at Irving Plaza she was a completely different woman, spitting and spewing out poetry. I was like, 'Holy shit.' I was looking for an outlet to film somebody. I convinced her to let me start filming her. Years and years of just showing up. Once there was the trust factor, she started to invite me to show up and film her."

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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