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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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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Vietnam
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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?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

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

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

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