The inclusion of Angst in Berlin & Beyond, the Goethe-Institut's annual showcase of new German-language films, shouldn't be taken as acceptance of the stereotype of the tortured, humorless Teutonic soul. Sure, it's a harrowing portrait of a messily unraveling marriage. But its selection really demonstrates that festival programmers appreciate humor. The same goes for When the Right One Comes Along, a comedy in which a flaky cleaning woman pursues a crush to Turkey. These organizers have a knack for selecting downbeat works, too, with Barbara Alpert's ambitious meditation on fate and relationships, Free Radicals, showing along with Return of the Tüdelband, a similarly themed outing in which S.F. rapper Dan Wolf mixes it up with hip-hoppers in Hamburg.
Margarethe von Trotta's Rosenstrasseopens the festival at 8 p.m. on Thursday (Berlin & Beyond runs through next Wednesday) at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro (near Market), S.F. Admission is $10 for the film only, $25 includes a pre-screening party at 6:30 p.m. (regular festival tickets are $8.50); call 621-6120 or visit www.castrotheatre.com. -- Michael Fox
Backwoods Ballads S.F.'s new country queens
Though most folks regard Loretta Lynn as a squeaky-clean coal miner's daughter, the singer could be an ass-kicker, too, in songs like "You Ain't Woman Enough." It's from Lynn's sassy side that local country-rock group Loretta Lynch draws its inspiration. At each show the act presents an inventive selection of covers (Lynn we'd expect, but Yo La Tengo? Liz Phair?), along with original material that pairs sweet three-part harmonies and twangy stylings with girl-power verve. (Chick power predominates, despite the presence of guitarist/vocalist Joe Rut in the otherwise all-female band.) Grab a washboard and help keep the beat starting at 10 p.m. at the Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk (at Post), S.F. Admission is $6; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com. -- Joyce Slaton
Amy Yvonne Yu has a way of knowing what might look interesting encased in a block of ice-colored wax. She has so far imprisoned berries, sticks of charcoal, Brussels sprouts, and (our favorite) a plush pig. Sinem Banna's talent leads her to employ Barbie dolls and Indonesian shadow figures in inanimate puppet shows. Yu's and Banna's impressive works are just a few of those to be found at "Female 2: Women in the New Millennia," a show featuring 45 women artists that includes film, performance art, and DJs in addition to more traditional visual forms like painting and sculpture. Surround yourself with interesting chicks at tonight's opening at 7 p.m. (the show is up through Jan. 22) at Balazo/Mission Badlands, 2811 Mission (at 24th Street), S.F. Admission is $5-20; call 550-1108 or visit www.artsf.org. -- Hiya Swanhuyser