Seattle International Film Festival at Forty

It’s #SIFForty! The 2014 Seattle International Film Festival is the 40th edition, at least by the numerical count (SIFF jumped from the “Twelfth Annual” in 1987 to the “Fourteenth Annual” in 1988, skipping Lucky Thirteen just like a high rise, but when you survive this long, who really sweats the details?). It holds the claim to the biggest film festival in America, by both length (a marathon twenty-four days) and number of films. This year’s presented 270 fiction and non-fiction features—including twenty feature film world premieres, twenty-one feature film North American premieres and eight feature film American premieres—and 168 shorts.

'Jimi: All Is By My Side'

SIFF has grown a lot in its forty years, expanding into education, special screenings and, in the last decade, year-round programming films throughout the year—and they celebrated by announcing two major events for the organization. SIFF just purchased the Uptown Theater, the three-screen complex just west of Seattle Center that they leased a couple of years ago, and along with that new mortgage they’ve taken on the lease of the Egyptian Theater, giving the Capitol Hill landmark and festival anchor that closed in 2013 a new lease on life. SIFF reopened the shuttered theater for the festival and then will close it again (temporarily) while it raises money for renovations and a planned fall opening as a year-round venue. Without SIFF’s commitment, that space would surely have been gutted or torn down and turned into apartments or condos.

All of that was announced at the opening night festivities before the screening Jimi: All is By My Side, John Ridley’s portrait of Seattle-born rock legend Jimi Hendrix in London the year before he broke in America at the Monterey Pop music festival. Once again, opening night took place in McCaw Hall at Seattle Center, a great place to experience dance or opera or theater but a lousy venue for movies, thanks to acoustics that send movie soundtracks reverberating through the hall. That might seem like a death knell for a music biopic but due to resistance from the Hendrix estate, Ridley was unable to use any of Hendrix’s original music or compositions.

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“The Stunt Man” – A new edition of the great cult film of moviemaking and madness

Blu-ray debut: God is a happy man

The Stunt Man” (Severin) on Blu-ray and 2-Disc Special Edition DVD

Richard Rush’s brilliant little backstage drama of illusion and reality and moviemaking sleight of hand earned three Oscar nominations and universally glowing reviews, yet is was barely seen on its initial release and became an almost instant cult classic.

Steve Railsback is intense and haunted as the Vietnam Vet on the run from his ghosts as much as from his mysterious crime who winds up sheltered by megalomaniac movie director Peter O’Toole and hired as the film’s new stunt man. As he falls in love with leading lady Barbara Hershey and tries to understand the alternately charismatic, sincere, manipulative, monstrous, and mysterious movie director, he loses the ability to tell what’s really happening behind the artifice and performance and finally becomes convinced they are out to kill him. The film twists and turns from scene to scene, carrying the audience on the some whirlwind mind-game as Railsback navigates the maze of assumption and appearances.

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