With The Great Beauty, it seemed Italy had found in Paolo Sorrentino an heir to Fellini, in a film that consciously re-worked elements of Marcello’s dilemma in La Dolce Vita, from the perspective of an elderly socialite/writer. Here, it seems like he’s revisiting themes from 8 1/2, with old friends composer Fred (Michael Caine) and filmmaker Mike (Harvey Keitel) staying at a Swiss spa and ruminating on the past. Fred is urged by an emissary to appear before the Queen to perform his best known work, Simple Songs, but he continuously refuses – a mystery that forms the heart of the narrative; Mike is writing his new work with a team of young scriptwriters for his new project with long-term collaborator the actress Brenda Morel (Jane Fonda). A famous actor best known for his robot role, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) is finding his way into a new part – a character from history whom he inhabits all too well. He’s one of a sequence of the ensemble who offer up a range of ideas about how to live (I particularly loved the interpretation of the most famous footballer in the world…). Sorrentino frames his shots and stories like nobody else. This offers up humour and pathos in surprising ways. It has people talking about modes of living: feeling, touching, walking, climbing, writing, performing, directing, composing. It’s about the future and the past. It’s witty, moral, intellectual, sensual, sentimental. And sad. What a pleasure.