SF film fest celebrates risk-takers

Noah Cowan, the recently appointed executive director of the San Francisco Film Society, didn’t shape the 2014 San Francisco International Film Festival, but says it will, as always, deliver the best in global cinema.

“I have had the opportunity of seeing many of the films selected by Rachel Rosen, our powerhouse director of programming, and this festival lineup feels among the best ever produced,” says Cowan, who in March took the reins of the group presenting the festival.

The roster for the 57th annual event, which runs Thursday through May 8, boasts 168 films, including 74 features from 56 countries.

“Championing talented artists who aren’t afraid of taking risks is at the heart of the Film Society’s mission and our ongoing support of filmmakers around the world,” Cowan adds.

The opening night feature is screenwriter Hossein Amini’s directorial debut, “The Two Faces of January,” an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith suspense thriller filmed in Greece and Turkey and starring Oscar Issac, Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst. Amini, who penned the screenplay for “The Wings of the Dove,” is slated to appear at the screening, at 7 p.m. at the Castro Theatre. A party at Public Works (161 Erie St., S.F.) follows the film.

Writer-director Chris Messina also will be in attendance for the closing feature, “Alex of Venice,” with Messina, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Don Johnson. The comedy-drama, about an environmental lawyer whose husband rebels against being a stay-at-home dad, screens at 7 p.m. May 8 at the Castro Theatre; a closing night party follows at 9 p.m. at The Chapel (777 Valencia St., S.F.).

The centerpiece presentation is Gia Coppola’s “Palo Alto,” an adaptation of James Franco’s book of short stories based in part on his own memories of being a teen in the Bay Area community. Franco, Emma Roberts and Jack Kilmer star in the film; director Coppola — granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola and stepdaughter of Peter Getty, son of Gordon Getty — will attend the screening at 7:30 p.m. May 3 at the Kabuki Cinemas.

IF YOU GO

S.F. International Film Festival 2014

Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., S.F.; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F.; and other venues

When: Thursday through May 8

Tickets: $15 general, more for special events

Contact: (415) 561-5006, www.sffs.org/festival-home

“Tracks”: Director John Curran’s film about a young woman (Mia Wasikowska) attempting to traverse Australia by foot in the company of four camels and a dog is based on Robyn Davidson’s memoir of her 1977 trek into the outback. [2 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. April 28, Kabuki Cinemas]

“Frank”: Lenny Abrahamson’s absurdist comedy details the exploits of a pop star wannabe (Domhnall Gleeson) who joins an avant-garde rock band whose leader (Michael Fassbender) is a savant who wears a giant fiberglass head. [9:15 p.m. April 26; 4 p.m. April 28, Kabuki Cinemas]

“Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”: David and Nathan Zellner’s strange, affecting film is about a lonely Tokyo office worker (Rinko Kikuchi of “Babel” and “Pacific Rim,” in a brilliant portrayal) fixated on the film “Fargo” who goes on a bizarre American road trip. [8:45 p.m. May 1; 2:30 p.m. May 3; 12:30 p.m. May 4, Kabuki Cinemas]

An Evening with Richard Linklater: The filmmaker (“Slacker,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Before Sunrise”) will receive the Founder’s Directing Award in a program featuring an onstage interview and a screening of his new film, “Boyhood,” about a young man’s journey from a 6-year-old to 18-year-old. [7 p.m. May 2, Castro Theatre]

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