'Micmacs,' 'Joan Rivers' to open and close festival

Robert Duvall, James Schamus, Joan Rivers, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Walter Salles and Roger Ebert will be among the headliners attending the 53rd San Francisco Film Fest, which unspools April 22-May 6 at various S.F. venues as well as Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive.

Tuesday’s kickoff press conference — led by programming director Rachel Rosen, who returned to the fest last fall after eight years at the L.A. Film Festival — announced a program encompassing nearly 200 films from 46 countries.

Official opener is Jeunet’s latest whimsy “Micmacs,” which the French “Amelie” helmer will intro in person. Sixteen days later things wrap with docu “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” whose subject will also be on hand.

Centerpiece presentation on May 1 brings writer/director/star Josh Radnor and his Sundance hit “Happythankyoumoreplease.”

A Film Society Awards Night on April 29 honors three who will also get separate tribute events: Half-century screen veteran Duvall, this year’s Peter J. Owens Award recipient; Founder’s Directing Award Walter Salles (“Motorcycle Diaries”), who’ll show in-progress docu “In Search of On the Road” about his ongoing struggles to film the Kerouac novel; and producer/Focus Features cofounder Schamus, whose screenwriting career earns 2010’s Kanbar honor. He’ll introduce a restored director’s cut of 1999 Civil War epic “Race with the Devil,” perhaps the least-seen of his 11 collaborations with director Ang Lee.

The Mel Novikoff nod for “enhancing the public’s appreciation of world cinema” goes to longtime critic Ebert, who will be joined onstage at the Castro May 1 by a clutch of filmmaker friends including Philip Kaufman, Errol Morris, Terry Zwigoff and Jason Reitman.

Others spotlit in special events are celebrated film editor/sound designer Walter Murch (delivering the annual “State of Cinema” address April 25), freshly Oscar-winning musician T. Bone Burnett, comedic talent Derek Walters (of the viral “Drunken History” shorts), animator Don Hertzfeldt, and director/scenarist Callie Khouri.

Live Cinema programs encompass “Weather Underground” co-helmer Sam Green’s Sundance-preemed “live documentary” called “Utopia in Four Movements,” and culty Magnetic Fields songwriter Stephin Merritt playing an original ensemble score for 1916 silent spectacular “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

Scattered amongst all are several world premieres, notably S.F. drag personality Peaches Christ, aka Joshua Grannell’s, slasher sendup “All About Evil,” Mike Ott’s Amerindie drama “Littlerock,” and Leland Orser’s “Morning,” in which the writer-director also stars opposite Laura Linney and his spouse Jeanne Tripplehorn.

Likely to prove among the hotter titles are Aaron Katz’s recent SWSW hit “Cold Weather,” Johnny To neonoir “Vengeance,” the Duplass Brothers’ “Cyrus,” Alain Resnais’ latest “Wild Grass,” Gallic biopic “Gainsbourg,” Israeli’s Golden Lion winner “Lebanon,” Sundance doc sensations “Restrepo” and “The Oath,” same fest’s Grand Jury Narrative winner “Winter’s Bone” plus restored-print revivals of Satyajit Ray’s 1958 “The Music Room,” Visconti’s ’54 melodrama “Senso” and Ted Kotcheff’s ’71 Aussie outback nightmare “Wake in Fright.”

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