It struck me yesterday that I must have become infatuated with Italy at the movies. Aside from the dramatic, but shopworn Sunday school stories about Herod and the role of the Roman soldiers as ‘extras’ in the story of Christ, I had no real notion of what ‘Italian’ meant until I went to the movies.

From 1965 to 1967 I went to the movies a lot. I was living and studying in Paris, the home of the most passionate cinema aficionados on the planet. I would buy my copy of Pariscope and ferret out the films being shown in “Version Original“(whatever language the film was made in.)

This kind of exhibition was not popular with the masses, but the French purists wouldn’t have it any other way. We would huddle together in the dark, deciphering the flickering sub-titles while trying to keep up with the stories unraveling before our eyes and ears. I got an education in cinema, from Battleship Potemkin to Pierrot Le Fou.

The Nouvelle Vague was exploding on the scene—with the local hero, Jean-Luc Godard at the forefront. But he was like the Sartre of cinema, often intellectual, profoundly aloof. For me, apart from Bunuel, a Spaniard, the most magical of all were the Italians—Fellini and Antonioni. They were the ones who managed to get their dreams on screen.

Turin was the birthplace of Italian cinema, so it is singularly appropriate that it should be the home of Italy’s homage to cinema. And what better building to put it in than the Mole, a spectacular structure that soars into the sky through an artful stacking of bricks. From the balcony at the top, you can see the whole city of Turin spread out below, the encircling Alps to the North and West.

From inside, split across five floors, there is the world of movies. Through interactive exhibits and “rooms” that focus on cinematic themes (from the Western ‘showdown’ to love and death), the story of filmmaking unfolds, from its beginnings (experiments with light and shadow plays) to DVDs.

A fleet of foam-covered deck chairs cover one entire floor of the “temple” to movie magic, allowing film pilgrims to watch two huge screens unreeling selections of flickering images. A long, circular staircase snakes up the interior for temporary exhibitions. currently featuring the films of Roman Polanski. Even the bar immerses one in the experience, with translucent, color changing tables and small screens replaying the eating scene from Tom Jones. C’est le fun! Arrivederci a presto. Ciao.