Last month's issue of Sight & Sound magazine gave ample real estate to Paolo Sorrentino's new film The Great Beauty, describing it as "a stupendous great gulp of Italian cinema." It says a lot, given the rich feast we already know Italian cinema to be. With his trademark venerating camera swoops and exacting widescreen set-pieces, Sorrentino nimbly alights on familiar film-history territory, but also makes it new as he tracks a retirement-age Roman journalist, perpetual party host, and one-time wunderkind novelist through what that character calls "the vortex of high society." It all seems grandly, unabashedly representative, and therefore an inevitable highlight of the San Francisco Film Society's 17th annual New Italian Cinema program, which screens The Great Beauty as part of a Closing Night tribute to Sorrentino with him in attendance. Of course the festival provides other delectable mouthfuls of Italian cinema too, including eight films in various genres competing for the City of Florence Award. But The Great Beauty seems best-poised to serve as a sort of cultural summing up. It'll also be in local release later this year, but without the essential context of this fine festival, in which it's the one not to miss.