Arts and Entertainment Rome sweet Rome: Tony Servillo in 'The Great Beauty'

From its delirious opening montage of disco divas, ageing socialites and strippers at play – one imagines Berlusconi's bunga bunga in a nutshell – Paolo Sorrentino's Roman satire has its sights fixed on epic greatness. There's a touch of La Dolce Vita in its fluid portrait of the city as carnival, with its parade of nuns, tourists, freaks, hangers-on, performance artists and other jokers. It is overseen by the dapper, disenchanted Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a journalist who once wrote a great novel but is now more famous for his roof-terrace parties and languid cynicism. The haute bourgeoisie circles Jep moves in turn a blind eye and a Botoxed pout to the depressed, debased society around them, preferring to dance themselves dizzy and drink themselves silly. (Sample dialogue: "What job do you do?" "Me? I'm rich". "Great job"). Nor is there any recourse to religion when Vatican prelates offer not spiritual succour but top cooking tips.

Review: Poetry in perfectly balanced emotion

Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith

Visual Arts: Like putty in his hands

No one could mould the male form like Michelangelo, and no one, says Tom Lubbock, has ever asked so much of the male anatomy

Visual Arts: In the tortured steps of Egon Schiele

Lea Anderson has created a dance from the works of the Austrian expressionist. Looks painful, says Louise Levene

Books: Borrowed and blue

How do you distinguish gay from straight literature? That's for the reader, not the writer, to judge, argues Peter Parker; A History of Gay Literature: the male tradition by Gregory Woods Yale University Press, pounds 24.95 Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: the hidden tradi tion of homosexual literature in English from 1748-1914 edited by Mark Mitchell and David Leavitt Chatto & Windus, pounds 17.99

Competition: Details No 370

IN WHICH painting by which painter can you find this cincture?

Sharing some of the facilities of private schools may salve liberal consciences, but it's difficult to dispel an uncomfortable aura of forelock- tugging

I'm looking forward to parental reaction to the Invasion of the Oicks into public schools, particularly if this - from sources close to my brother-in-law - is anything to go by. "Jolly good idea - teach 'em hunting, shooting and fishing - some of the bloody townies might see what hunting's all about. What about riding lessons - I believe they don't have them in those, what do they call 'em, basin schools. Put 'em on horseback - with luck a few of the buggers might fall off and break their necks."

Klimt castle sold for pounds 14.5m

A saleroom battle between two bidders left the London art market agog yesterday when a monumental landscape by Gustav Klimt sold for a record pounds 14.5m at Christie's - more than double the expected price.

People in fashion: World of the strange

It takes a bizarre imagination to create sets for Alexander McQueen's shows - like Simon Costin's - says Chris Maume

Open season for prose

No analogy too elevated, no description too celestial, no moralism too sententious. That's sports writing. We've had Sampras. Here comes Tiger Woods. By Boyd Tonkin

Poetry, art, music? I'll take mine without the blood

It was a remarkable day, said one commentator, which all the people involved would remember for the rest of their lives. "This is no occasion to croon softly," announced the song sheet handed out as they descended in their thousands from coaches, trains and private cars, "We are just a few yards from the West End, so let's really put on a show."

Malta mystery tour

Maltese markets reflect the island itself: they have everything. By Annie Caulfield

Money: Return of the saints

Young suits are buying the Old Masters, writes John Windsor

Re-educating Tilda

Tilda Swinton in power suits and lipstick? Yes, but it's not what it seems. 'Female Perversions' explores women's need to adopt false identities to survive. And, says the performance artist, the role taught her a lot. By Liese Spencer

Gentleman of Verona: Put to the test

Of all the tedious ways to spend an afternoon, I know of none worse than to find yourself sitting on the thesis commission of an Italian university. On a stool behind a low podium, a girl is telling a microphone about a British feminist called Vera Brittain. Facts, figures, fulsome admiration. But I'm not paying attention. What I'm thinking about is the disastrous argument I got drawn into last night: a pleasant evening in a restaurant became a pitched battle when I would not show sufficient concern about the state of Third World debt. Apparently such nonchalance on my part was equivalent to singing in the bath only a stone's throw from the smoking crematoriums of Auschwitz. The man I was talking to had closed his account - closed his account! - when he found his bank was lending money to Mobutu. Facts, figures, furious indignation. As usual, I was torn between an awareness of the desperate lot of starving millions and a rejection of any attempt to convert me to a life of vigilant piety. "In conclusion," the rather pretty girl concludes, "I think Vera Brittain offers a shining example we would all do well to follow."

The bodies in question

Anthony-Noel Kelly has been questioned by police about the origin of human body parts used in the making of his sculpture. But perhaps the charge against the artist should be this: grievous lack of originality. By David Cohen
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Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
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Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

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Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there