Sharp Finn 

Feminist filmmaker at the PFA

7/11-9/5

Finnish video artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila has been traversing the spaces between traditional cinematic expressions, 21st-century sound-bite aesthetics, and the subjective nature of museum installations for years. Her often multi- and split-screen presentations work best in nontraditional settings, yet, as a complement to her Intention to Fail exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum, Ahtila will be on hand Thursday at 7:30 p.m. to introduce some of her films at the Pacific Film Archive. The evening begins with Ahtila's provoking and somewhat disturbing analysis of female sexuality, If 6 Was 9, followed by the short Consolation Service, centered on a young couple contemplating the conscious ending of their family unit. The evening's highlight is Love Is a Treasure, a linked series of five vignettes imagining the first-person perspectives of mentally ill women. Based on extensive interviews and research, this slightly surreal fictionalization is reminiscent of David Lynch's Freudian symbolism in Mulholland Drive or A Beautiful Mind's personification of schizophrenia, yet gives a much clearer insight into what extreme anxiety feels like.

The PFA is located at 2575 Bancroft Way in Berkeley, the Art Museum at 2626 Bancroft Way. Tickets to the PFA event cost $4-$8. 510-642-0808 or visit BAMPFA.berkeley.edu -- Amrah Johnson

SAT 7/10

Star East

Celestial splendor at Chabot

This weekend, Chabot Space and Science Center welcomes a landmark exhibit to its halls and walls. Dragon Skies: Astronomy of Ancient China, making its first stop of a seven-city tour, is the result of a partnership between Chinese and American museum curators. See evidence of how important astronomy was to ancient China's agrarian society, dependent as it was on accurate forecasts and calendars, not to mention emperors looking to the heavens for proof of their divine right to rule. Dragon Skies brings oracle bones, the earliest record of Halley's Comet (in 500 BC), an account of the AD 1054 supernova explosion that resulted in the Crab Nebula, stone carvings of myths and legends, and much more. The exhibit runs through Jan. 2, 2005, and admission to Chabot costs $11 for adults, $8 for youth and seniors, free for kids under three. Info: ChabotSpace.org -- Stefanie Kalem

SAT 7/10

Art-Rich in Richmond

Saturday, getcher art on for realz at the Richmond Art Center (2540 Barrett Ave.). From 3 to 6 p.m., there will be a reception for artists in all current exhibitions, running through Aug. 21. There's the juried exhibition Go West!, in the Main Gallery; Pulling One Off, in the South Gallery, featuring five Bay Area screenprinters; Nathan Lynch's sculpture show, Undercover, in the West Gallery; and, From Our Studios with artwork by center students, and Blankies for Grownups, comprising "comfort quilts for cancer patients." 510-621-1245. -- Stefanie Kalem

SAT 7/10

Back 'n' Forth for Good

Starlets, ladies, and luck

In 2001, Ian Parks disbanded An American Starlet and moved from SF to Seattle. Hooking up with old friend Liz Harris, he reconfigured the band, and released the second full-length under that moniker in November 2003. The Duchess of Hazard proves all that back-and-forth worthwhile. Both are blessed with rich, rare voices, and the band as a whole moves easily from the wistful title track -- which recalls Calexico in all its softly painted, cinematic elegance -- to the rockin', organ-fueled Big Pinkness of "Starstruck Brother." An American Starlet plays the Starry Plough Saturday with Our Lady of the Highway and Jeffrey Luck Lucas. 9:30 p.m., $7, StarryPloughPub.com, 510-841-2082. -- Stefanie Kalem

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