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.

Classical: Dark Ages brought to light

TALLIS SCHOLARS VOCAL ENSEMBLE CHRISTMAS CONCERT

Going Out: Worldwide City to city

Milan

Books: Art: The Britpack for breakfast

OSCAR WILDE quipped that "every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter". But even he may not have envisaged that a century later there would be artists whose oeuvre would consist of little but self-portraits: Gilbert and George, Anthony Gormley, Marc Quinn, Cindy Sherman...

Christmas books: Art - Sweet old saints and bitter lives

Tim Hilton recommends part-time Christians and sweetheartish themes for Christmas

Books: Inspirations - Novelist Allan Massie

The music

HOW WE MET: AMANDA THOMPSON AND VLADIMIR

Amanda Thompson is a director of Blackpool Pleasure Beach and great-granddaughter of its founder, William 'WG' Bean. She is also president of Stageworks Worldwide Productions, for which she produces more than 20 shows a year. She went to a private school in Oxford, then worked for Disney before producing her first ice show in 1982. Vladimir Kekhaial, 32, was born in the Russian village of Stashkova, where he worked as a coal miner and spent two years manning a nuclear missile site. He then joined a touring circus as a stage hand and developed a solo act which attracted the attention of Cirque du Soleil. He performed his aerial ballet act in Las Vegas for five years before his recent move to England

48 hours in ... Malta

Small, compact and perfectly formed, the island at the heart of the Mediterranean offers a mix of cultures to suite all tastes, finds Serena Mackesy

World's largest Rubens collection to be unveiled at restored Prado

THE PRADO Museum in Madrid, continuing its efforts to haul itself into the new millennium, is to open 12 newly refurbished rooms devoted to 17th-century Dutch and Flemish masters, including a collection of works by Rubens that it says is the biggest and finest in the world.

Rembrandt 'fake' a genuine error

A PAINTING branded as bogus and consigned to the basement of Ireland's National Art Gallery more than 25 years ago is likely to be proved a genuine Rembrandt after all.

Books: What happens when girl beats boy

When She Was Bad: How Women Get Away With Murder

Edinburgh Festival `98: From Russia for fun

THEATRE: DEREVO PLEASANCE

When did you last see these paintings?

The three priceless works of art on the right were snatched in a raid on a gallery in Rome, it was revealed yesterday. They are the latest additions to a hoard of treasures, stolen to order and never to be seen again...

Even old masters had off days

Tom Lubbock makes the refreshing discovery that, hundreds of years ago, artists were just as capable of being superficial, vacant and cynical as they are today

Visual arts: Light and shadow

The Masters of Light exhibition is a much overdue examination of a short-lived but brilliant group of Utrecht artists from the Golden Age of Dutch art. In addition to well-known figures, such as the brothers Herman and Cornelius Saftleven, Abraham Bloemaert, and Abraham Bosschaert the Elder, the exhibition concentrates on the so-called "Utrecht Caravaggisti", a group of painters who travelled from Utrecht to Rome at the beginning of the 17th century. They were particularly impressed by the work of Caravaggio, the Italian master of light, and on their return to the Netherlands, combined Italian chiaroscuro and Dutch realism to produce works of great beauty and luminosity.

Michelangelo's quarry faces a ruinous future future

THE TOWERING white cliffs which dominate the town of Carrara still echo with the sharp whine of quarrying equipment, but many of the men who carve the world's most sought-after marble from the Tuscan hills may soon be forced to abandon their ancient craft.
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JJ Abrams' seventh Star Wars, The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of Episode VII has gone online after weeks of anticipation
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Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
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Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
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Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

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The Black Friday Vines that will destroy your faith in humanity
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The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
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The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
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Robbie Rogers: US former Leeds United footballer, 25, announced he was gay in February 2013, shortly after he left Elland Road. Rogers 'retired' after writing on his blog: 'I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay.' Has since signed with Los Angeles Galaxy.
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Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
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All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game