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.

Street Fight in Naples: A City's Unseen History, By Peter Robb

Neapolitan, and not easily forgotten

Boyd Tonkin: Travesties and titillations

The week in books

Le Quattro Volte, Michelangelo Frammartino, 88 mins, U

Slow Italian art cinema might not set the pulse racing, but be patient: with barely a word of dialogue, this gentle drama is beautiful, mysterious and funny

My Secret Life: Derek Deane, choreographer, 57

My parents were... very kind people. My father was in the RAF and my mother trained as a nurse. I had a very distant relationship with them, though, mostly because of their work commitments.

Le Quattro Volte (U)

Starring: Giuseppe Fuda, Bruno Timpano

The Lost Battles, By Jonathan Jones

Da Vinci's sprint in the great art Renaissance race

Tom Sutcliffe: Real time is a bad time on screen

The week in culture

Where all roads lead to the dome

City Slicker: Florence - A new flight makes it easier to reach the city of the Medicis. Kate Simon has some tips for new and returning visitors

Michelangelo's Finger, By Raymond Tallis

Raymond Tallis is that rare thing: a genuine polymath. A former GP and specialist in gerontological medicine, he is also a highly regarded poet and literary critic. Michelangelo's Finger, his latest book, is an elegant philosophical essay that argues for the "supreme importance" of an apparent trifle: the peculiar movement of the human index finger in the act of pointing.

Picture of the Day: Flavour of the moment

It's not every day that you can boast about being on Jelly Baby cleaning duty. But that was the situation yesterday for a worker at London's Marble Arch, where Italian artist Mauro Peruchetti's glossy sculpture Jelly Baby Family is on display.

Tom Sutcliffe: Why we change the crime to fit the story

Social Studies: We want life to have significance – and so we're eager for details that make sense of the senseless

Great works: 'Crucified Christ' (circa 1540), Agnolo Bronzino

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nice

48 Hours In: Naples

Sample life in the shadow of Vesuvius this autumn with an eruption of stunning views, sumptuous cuisine and fascinating heritage.

Jack Vettriano: The poster boy of popular art

He's been accused of plagiarism, painting by numbers and shameless commercialism, yet Jack Vettriano has still managed to produce the most recognisable, and popular, art work of the last 20 years with The Singing Butler. It hasn't made him happy, though, he tells Alice Jones
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In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible