GLASGOW will be stargazing as big screen names descend on the city.

The ninth annual Glasgow Film Festival was launched last night and will bring 11 days of cinema screenings at 27 venues across the city.

The screen lit up at the GFT at the first of 57 UK film premieres as the red carpet was rolled out on Valentine's night for the opening gala, a screening of the French romantic comedy Populaire.

The film's writer and director Regis Roinsard was at the sold-out event at Glasgow Film Theatre on Rose Street.

The 1958-set film, starring Romain Duris, Deborah Francois and The Artist's Berenice Bejo, tells the story of an insurance agent who tries to transform his country girl secretary into a speed typing champion.

The film festival is now the third biggest in the UK, selling more than 35,000 tickets last year.

A number of big names from Hollywood and independent European cinema are expected to descend on the city.

They include Bond girl Gemma Arterton, who will be joined by The Lovely Bones star Saoirse Ronan and director Neil Jordan for the premiere of blood-curdling vampire thriller Byzantium next Friday.

The film is on general release in May.

Tonight, Still Game stars Ford Kiernan and Gavin Mitchell will attend the red carpet premiere of their new film, Songs For Amy, about a band of musicians who attempt to repair the damage caused at a debauched stag do.

The home-grown actors will be joined by musicians Larry Love and Harpo Strangelove from rock band Alabama 3, who make a cameo appearance in the film.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator and Avengers Assemble director Joss Whedon will attend the closing gala screening of his adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

Meanwhile, James D'Arcy, who can currently be seen as Psycho's Anthony Perkins in the blockbuster Hitchcock, will attend the first public screening of the Wachowski siblings' Cloud Atlas.

The film, adapted from David Mitchell's best-selling novel, famously brought Halle Berry to the streets of Glasgow last summer.

Castlemilk-based actor Marty Docherty, who plays Tom Hanks' brother in the film and travelled to the LA premiere, will join celebrity guests on the red carpet on Sunday.

Inglourious Basterds star and horror film guru Eli Roth is another big name confirmed to appear at the festival.

The director of Hostel will attend the UK premiere of his new film Aftershock at the GFT on Saturday, February 23.

Music guru Terri Hooley will attend the UK premiere of Good Vibrations, a film telling the story of his record label and life spent championing acts such as The Undertones.

Veteran Scots actor James Cosmo will talk about his life and career at the GFT tomorrow.

Other names expected to come to Glasgow include Game of Thrones star Rory McCann, director Scott Graham, actor Robert Emms, Prometheus star Emun Elliot and Brazilian director Odilon Rocha.

The festival is giving film fans the chance to watch dozens more big-budget movies before they hit multiplexes.

Glasgow audiences will be the first to see Nicole Kidman in the thriller Stoker – and her Golden Globe-nominated performance in The Paperboy.

They can also see Richard Gere back on form in Arbitrage; comedian Steve Coogan playing porn baron Paul Raymond in Michael Winterbottom's The Look of Love; Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain in the horror Mama; and homegrown stars James McAvoy and Peter Mullan in Welcome to the Punch.

World premieres include Kevin Cameron's portrait of artist and writer Alasdair Gray; and The Devil's Plantation, based on May Miles Thomas' website on Glasgow's secret geometry.

The biggest Glasgow Film Festival programme to date features 368 screenings in addition to a series of discussions, live performances and special events.

It aims to take audiences out of the cinema and into unusual venues.

Glasgow Cathedral will host its first film showing with a screening of 1928 silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc set against a backdrop of live organ music and a soprano.

Two maritime horrors – Dead Calm and Jaws – will be screened on board The Tall Ship.

Audiences will be encouraged to dress up for The Calamity Jane Barn Dance at country and western club the Grand Ole Opry.

Moreover, the programme also includes First Minister Alex Salmond introducing his 'geek cinema classic', a celebration of Brazilian cinema, and a retrospective on the life and work of Hollywood tough guy James Cagney.

Funnyman Robert Florence, one half of BBC sketch duo Burnistoun, has curated a series of events looking at the cross-over between cinema and video gaming.

The 'geek' element of the programme continues with a discussion about comic books from Judge Dredd creator John Wagner, Kick-Ass writer Mark Miller and Steve Niles of 30 Days of Night fame.

Barras-based fashion label Obscure Couture will launch its new collection with an outrageous live catwalk and film extravagana.

There will also be live music from chanteuse Jane Birkin, techno legend Jeff Mills and folk stars Lau in addition to a Festival Club in the Terrace Bar of the CCA arts centre on Sauchiehall Street.

The festival draws to a close next Sunday, on the day Hollywood's finest gather for the 85th Academy Awards.

•Tickets available from or 0141 332 6535.