The Seattle International Film Festival, which runs through June 7 at several locations, kicks off with a busy weekend.

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The Seattle International Film Festival kicks off with a busy weekend of eight screens full of film (three at the Uptown; one each at the Egyptian, Harvard Exit, Pacific Place, Lincoln Square and SIFF Film Center). Here are some week-one recommendations from Seattle Times writers; for more information, see And, for tips on how to navigate the festival, go to

“Best of Enemies”★★★  

This compelling documentary returns us to summer 1968, when conservative William F. Buckley Jr. and liberal Gore Vidal debated nightly on television during the airing of the Republican and Democratic political conventions. Leaning back in their armchairs and speaking in silky patrician tones (Buckley’s punctuated by an eerie Cheshire-cat grin), the two men archly curdled each other’s arguments; it made for strangely fascinating viewing — the likes of which we’d never see in today’s climate of sound bites. (6 p.m. May 16, Uptown; 1:30 p.m. May 17, Pacific Place) — Moira Macdonald

“Ciudad Delirio”★★½  

A slickly edited salsa musical with plenty of spectacular dance sequences and a formulaic love story about a Spanish doctor who falls for a Colombian dancer. It’s pure fairy-tale wish-fulfillment, but the filmmakers must have done something right: You actually care if this couple can manage to bypass all the obstacles in their way. (8:30 p.m. May 15, Uptown; 4:30 p.m. May 18, Uptown) — John Hartl

“Flowers” ★★★  

Seattle International Film Festival

Through June 7 at Egyptian, Uptown, Pacific Place, Harvard Exit, SIFF Film Center, Lincoln Square (through May 31), Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center (May 21-27), Kirkland Performance Center (June 1-7). Individual tickets are $11 weekday matinees ($9 SIFF members), $13 evening/weekend shows ($11 SIFF members); various ticket packages available. Box office: 206-324-9996, or at festival venues.

Here’s a film about death that’s neither depressing nor absurdly inspirational. It focuses less on the death of a middle-aged man on a Spanish highway than it does on the unexpected consequences of his premature demise. Relationships among the survivors are abruptly altered as memories blend with intensely meditative flower displays. Co-director Jon Garaño is scheduled to attend the first two screenings. (4 p.m. May 15, Uptown; 6:30 p.m. May 16, Uptown; 6 p.m. May 20, Lincoln Square) — J.H.

“For Grace” ★★★  

A high-production-value documentary about highly driven chef Curtis Duffy opening a high-end Chicago restaurant, “For Grace” seems predictable and a bit slow at first, but the filmmakers themselves were shocked by the horrific real-life tragedy that’s uncovered. Add in the world’s most unassuming, sweetest hero — Duffy’s high-school home-ec teacher — and a literal reaching-for-the-stars ending, and “For Grace” tells an incredible and incredibly moving tale. Co-director Kevin Pang is scheduled to attend both screenings. (6 p.m. May 15, Uptown; 3:45 p.m. May 17, Pacific Place) — Bethany Jean Clement

“Gemma Bovery” ★★★½  

Anne Fontaine’s lighthearted take on “Emma Bovary” (and on Posy Simmonds’ Flaubert-inspired graphic novel) is a contemporary comedy of manners. Fabrice Luchini, his wide-eyed expression perpetually balanced somewhere between yearning and horror, plays a small-town baker in Northern France, fascinated by a visiting English couple (Gemma Arterton, Jason Flemyng) — who happen to be named Gemma and Charles Bovery. The scenery’s lovely and the bread-kneading surprisingly erotic. (3:30 p.m. May 16, Egyptian; 7 p.m. May 19, Egyptian). — M. M.

“The Golden Hill” ★★½  

Nepal looks like the sunniest place on Earth in this light but likable pre-earthquake movie about a boy coming of age as his parents deal with their separate midlife crises. Complicating the situation are a girlfriend he hasn’t seen in years and a future that could include becoming an engineer. The dusky widescreen cinematography is the real star. SIFF is donating $2 from the cost of each ticket for earthquake relief in Nepal; following each screening will be a presentation about the progress of relief efforts. (7 p.m. May 18, Pacific Place; 4:30 p.m. May 20, Pacific Place; 6 p.m. May 22, Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center.) — J.H.

“Guidance”  ★★½ 

Pat Mills wrote, directed and stars in this gleefully amoral Canadian comedy about an aging child star who tries to start a second career as a high-school guidance counselor. His solution to most problems involves booze or weed, which he doles out whenever a student is too shy or alienated, and he’s surprisingly successful until he runs into identity-theft problems. If you laughed at Dudley Moore’s “Arthur,” try this. Mills is scheduled to attend. (9:30 p.m. May 15, Harvard Exit; 3:30 p.m. May 16, Uptown) — J.H.

“Handmade with Love in France” ★★★  

Those enchanted by “Dior and I” (SIFF 2014) will enjoy Julie Georgia Bernard’s peek at several Paris craftspeople who laboriously yet lovingly create the details of haute couture: feathers, flowers, pleats (via some magical method involving cardboard), hat forms. (“You must forget the clock,” says one.) It’s a quiet celebration of lives spent perfecting a delicate, unique skill — one that becomes, in the words of a craftsman, “in my skin.” (4:15 p.m. May 15, Pacific Place; 1 p.m. May 23, Lincoln Square; 11 a.m. May 25, Egyptian) — M.M.

“I’ll See You in My Dreams” ★★★  

Often a vivid presence in supporting roles, Blythe Danner gets the starring breakthrough of her movie career, playing a widow of 20 years who suddenly finds herself involved with two eligible dreamboats (Sam Elliott, Martin Starr). The timing may seem too contrived, but the actors make it work. Director Brett Haley and Elliott are scheduled to attend both screenings. (5:30 p.m. May 17, Uptown; 4:15 p.m. May 18, Harvard Exit) — J.H.

“King Georges” ★★½  

The profanities flow like kitchen wine in this documentary about the closing of a Philadelphia restaurant that became a legend during four decades of operation. One of the festival’s more ambitious “foodie” films, it gradually turns into a cracked character study about a French perfectionist boss and the improbably patient all-American chef who puts up with his tantrums. Director Erika Frankel is scheduled to attend both screenings, along with chefs Georges Perrier and Nicholas Elmi. (7 p.m. May 20, Pacific Place; 4 p.m. May 21, Uptown) — J.H.

“Love & Mercy” ★★★★  

Director Bill Pohlad gets the tone just right for this disturbing but musically ecstatic biopic about Beach Boy Brian Wilson, played as a quirkily innocent young man by Paul Dano and a needy wreck of an adult by John Cusack. Paul Giamatti renders with skin-crawling brilliance the phony guru therapist who virtually enslaved Wilson for years; Elizabeth Banks is stunning as the intrigued but tentative lover who comes to the rescue. Composer Atticus Ross is scheduled to attend the first screening. (6:30 p.m. May 15, Egyptian; 12:30 p.m. May 16, Pacific Place.) — Paul de Barros

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” ★★★½  

The title says it all in this droll, awards-sweeping comedy-drama from the most recent Sundance Film Festival. Thomas Mann (catchy name, that) plays a high-school loner who has perfected the ability to seem invisible to his classmates. When his mother forces him to befriend a neighbor who has been diagnosed with leukemia, he uses his deadpan stand-up routine to help her cope. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is scheduled to attend the first screening. (6:30 p.m. May 16, Pacific Place; 2:30 p.m. May 17, Uptown) — J.H.

“The New Girlfriend” ★★★  

French master François Ozon (“Swimming Pool,” “Under the Sand,” “8 Women”) returns with another woman-centered drama, this time based on a Ruth Rendell short story. Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) is plunged into grief upon the death of her childhood friend Laura — and shocked by how Laura’s husband, David (an excellent Romain Duris), is keeping her spirit alive. Nicely Hitchcock-y, particularly the music, and, ultimately, unexpectedly warmhearted. (9:30 p.m. May 16, Egyptian; 11:30 a.m. May 17, Uptown) — M.M.

“Pather Panchali: Song of the Little Road” ★★★★  

Part One of Satyajit Ray’s “Apu” trilogy follows the childhood adventures of Apu, a poor boy barely surviving in a Bengali village visited by storms and trains. Filled with unpretentious poetic imagery and heralded in 1956 as India’s first great cinematic achievement, it often appears on international critics’ lists of top 10 films. This is a 4K digital restoration. (3 p.m. May 17, Lincoln Square; 11 a.m. May 24, Pacific Place) — J.H.

“The Red Shoes” ★★★★  

“Why do you want to dance?” “Why do you want to live?” Go ahead, immerse yourself in this most swoonworthy of movies: Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell’s ethereal, exquisite 1948 Technicolor melodrama about ballet, art and love, looking better than ever after a major 2009 restoration. Ballerina/actress Moira Shearer’s face — and dancing feet — will happily haunt your dreams, and the 15-minute ballet-within-the-movie is a surreal joy. (12:30 p.m. May 16, Egyptian) — M.M.

“Romeo Is Bleeding”  ★★★ 

Stories about drive-by shootings and gang warfare tend to get lost in headlines about statistics and body counts, but this hard-hitting documentary makes it all so personal, using death certificates, a visit to a cemetery and interviews with survivors to bring home the full horror of the situation. The setting is Richmond, Calif., where a young poet, Donte Clark, discovers the parallels with “Romeo and Juliet.” Director Jason Zeldes is scheduled to attend. (5 p.m. May 17, Uptown; 3:30 p.m. May 18, Uptown) — J.H.

“The Son of the Sheik” ★★★  

One of Hollywood’s first blockbuster sequels, this 1926 vehicle for Rudolph Valentino was even more successful than “The Sheik” (1921). He plays both father and son in the desert romance, which turned out to be his last picture. He was 31 when he died two weeks before its release. The Alloy Orchestra is providing live accompaniment. (7 p.m. May 19, Uptown) — J.H.

“Waterline” ★★½  

Two policemen are missing in this Polish mystery, which starts out cold, complicated and mostly humorless and pretty much stays in that mode for 94 minutes. If you’re in the mood for “Fargo,” but without the jokes or the warmth, it may be your cup of tea. (9:15 p.m. May 15, Uptown; 4:30 p.m. May 20, Uptown; 8:30 p.m. May 22, Lincoln Square) — J.H.