There’s been a rush of good movies recently — Rachel Getting Married (with Anne Hathaway) and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, to name just two — and coming up is The Class, winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, which opens on 27 February. It’s based on an autobiographical novel by a French schoolteacher and centres on a class of 17/18-year-olds, I would guess, from racially diverse backgrounds in a poor suburb of Paris. It focuses on teacher-pupil relationships, with all the problems and misunderstandings that different cultures and languages can create in everyday classroom life. This documentary-style film is made with humour and compassion, and, though I thought it half an hour too long, is well worth seeing.
At the British Museum a stack of treasures can be found in Shah ‘Abbas, the Remaking of Iran (until 14 June). ‘Abbas was crowned shah in 1587 aged 16, and during his 42-year reign he introduced a new artistic style. He moved the Safavid capital to Isfahan (there is a short film of the city showing the mosque and other buildings, with the camera showing close-ups of the tiles and mosaics), where there were workshops for painters, calligraphers, bookbinders and illuminators. In the show there are exquisite watercolour miniatures and pages of poetry, as well as rugs and carpets, porcelain and ceramic dishes (mainly from China) and other objects — all in all, a visual treat in the BM Reading Room.
Coming up at the Old Vic (26 February to 9 May) is Dancing at Lughnasa, Brian Friel’s play about five sisters in rural Ireland, which had its première some 20 years ago. This time the cast includes Niamh Cusack and Andrea Corr. Also worth catching should be the National Theatre’s Burnt by the Sun (Lyttelton, previews from 24 February), directed by Howard Davies and with Ciaran Hinds and Rory Kinnear in the cast; plus Dido, Queen of Carthage at the Cottesloe (previews from 17 March), Christopher Marlowe’s first play, written when he was an undergraduate.