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‘Love’ leads Seattle fest

The 23rd annual Seattle Intl. Film Festival kicks off May 15, unspooling more than 250 features and shorts from 43 countries in 25 days, making it one of the longest fests in North America.

This year’s event — boasting the subhead “Everything You are About to See is True” — opens with Griffin Dunne’s pic-helming debut, “Addicted to Love,” a romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Matthew Broderick. All three are scheduled to attend the gala at the 5th Avenue Theater, according to fest co-founder and longtime topper Darryl Macdonald.

Closing the fest will be “Mrs. Brown,” an offbeat costumer (world-preeming in Cannes) with Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Billy Connolly as her Scottish lover. It’s from John Madden, who helmed “Ethan Frome.”

Highlights include a special tribute to French helming great Bertrand Tavernier, on hand May 19 to receive the fest’s Crystal Space Needle Life Achievement Award, and to screen his recent Captain Conan pic, with France’s ambassador to the U.S. in attendance. A limited retrospective is also planned. The Hong Kong Special Focus promises to consist of solid recent efforts.

Biggest set of bows

The ’97 edition unspools 19 world preems — the most any SIFF has ever had on tap — with veteran helmer Juzo Itami’s “Supermarket Woman” from Japan and “Raroria, Paradise Island” and “Companions: Tales From the Closet,” both from Sweden, the only offshore offerings.

That leaves an indie-heavy lineup, with just a few big names, all slated to attend: “Breaking Up,” from Robert Greenwald, starring Salma Hayek and Russell Crowe; Erin Dingnamos’ “Loved” toplined by Robin Wright, Sean Penn and William Hurt; and “Somewhere in the City,” helmed by Ramin Niami and starring Sandra Bernhardt and Robert John Burke.

The other world preems are Victor Mignatti’s “Broadway Damage,” Ted Sod’s “Crocodile Tears,” John Keitel’s “Defying Gravity,” Harish Salvja’s “The Journey,” P.J. Posner’s “Lifebreath,” Tony Barbieri’s “One,” Lina Shanklin’s “One of Those Nights,” Paris Poirier’s “Pride Divide,” Tara Fitzpatrick’s “Scratch the Surface,” Derek Dunsay’s “The Small Hours,” and “Steaming Milk” from Rodney Lee Rogers, plus the co-helming efforts “Nothing Sacred,” from David Elliot and Mark Huppin, and “The Elevator,” from Arthur Borman, Rafael Zelinsky and Nigel Dick.

The fest’s U.S. preems include U.K. efforts “Bob’s Weekend,” “A Bit of Scarlett” and “Glastonbury: The Movie”; “Christmas Oratorio” and “Such Is Life,” from Sweden, along with Norway’s “Mendel” and “Wives III” and Denmark’s “Island on Bird Street”; Austria’s “The Unfish,” Hungary’s “The Witman Boys,” Germany’s “The Super Wife,” France’s “A Saturday on Earth,” Spain’s “Tramway to Marvarrosa” and Israel’s “Dogs Are Colorblind” and “The Cow’s Orgasm.” Japanese helmer Ishii Takashi’s “Gonin II” bows here, along with India’s “The Village Has No Walls,” Australia’s “Idiot Box.,” and “A Queer Story” and “Viva Erotica,” both from Hong Kong. Sandor Simo’s “Every Sunday” and “Secrets of the Heart,” from Montxo Barrios, are homegrown pics getting U.S. exposure after offshore debuts.

Some other thesps expected before SIFF’s June 8 close are Brendan Fraser, Vincent D’Onofrio, Joanna Going, Peter Postelthwaite, and Sonia Braga. The fest’s web address is http://www.seattlefilm.com.

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