TURIN, Italy -- Inside the Mole Antonelliana, the city's biggestlandmark, the Museo Nazionale del Cinema offers one bizarreexperience after another.
Watch David Lynch's 'Eraserhead' from a toilet seat. Stare up atromantic classics such as 'Dr. Zhivago' -- or the treacly 'LoveStory' -- while reclined on a red chaise.
Included in the price of admission (about $10) is the chance tostar in 'The Matrix,' smack in the middle of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss as they do that very smooth, slow-motion, too-cool-for-words strut.
Granted, it's not Olympic downhill, but while the Winter Games aregoing on across this northwest city and in the Alps behind it, thereare plenty of tourists looking for a little non-sports culture.
The National Cinema Museum leaves patrons awe-struck over itsgorgeous architecture, luminous lighting and six floors ofhistorical, visual innovations from shadow puppets to Sophia Loren.
The entire experience is a bit like lying on your couch andfinding yourself plopped into the middle of a Federico Fellini movie.
He's here, too. Laminated copies of scripts from his movies occupyone exhibit. Photographs of Fellini taken on various sets areseemingly everywhere. There is an entire shelf of videos for sale inthe gift shop, from Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in 'LaDolce Vita,' to '8oe,' with the aforementioned Italian leading manand French co-star Anouk Aimee.
In the museum, there are more than 9,000 artifacts -- anappropriately impressive collection for a city that is the birthplaceof Italian moviemaking. But a lot more fun than simply looking atthings are the interactive shows.
Like being able to walk into 'The Matrix,' thanks to a videocamera that superimposes your image onto a movie screen, where it isflanked by Neo and Trinity in all their black-shades-and-black-leather-duster-coats glory.
On a recent afternoon, a young Italian man donned sunglasses, benthis knees, wiggled his hips and tried to mimic Reeves.
His girlfriend doubled over with laughter, then dutifully held upa cell phone camera to take his photo.
Up next were two young French boys whose heads barely reached theknees of Moss and Reeves. The children scrunched their faces, squaredtheir shoulders and did their best to seem tough. Then they collapsedin a giggling heap.
There's also a lot of memorabilia, including props, film camerasand an ample black bustier worn by Marilyn Monroe in several films,next to a Mexican-silver-and-abalone bracelet inscribed 'To Marilyn.Love, Frank.'
Frank who? Visitors aren't told.
The headscarf and flowing muslin caftan worn by Peter O'Toole in'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962) is mounted behind glass, with a quotefrom the actor on its comfort: 'I practically turned into atransvestite! I thought I'd end up running around in a nightie forthe rest of my days!'
Particularly striking is the 'Bombetta di Charles Chaplin,' ablack felt bowler with a frayed satin headband that came from actressGloria Swanson, who claimed that the diminutive genius gave it to herhimself.
At 549 feet, the Mole Antonelliana is Europe's tallest brick-and-iron building. Inside is a central courtyard with five mezzaninesringed by solid wood banisters. Sounds bounce from points along thevaulted walls -- the unmistakable nasality of Woody Allen's voice;the clacking of a screenwriter's typewriter; Orson Welles whispering'Rosebud.'
A succession of video monitors display scenes from some of thebest-known films in movie history.
On one, Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara flounces up Tara's grandstaircase while Clark Gable's Rhett Butler stares without shame atthe backside of her hoop skirt; on another, Humphrey Bogart tells animpossibly beautiful and dewy-eyed Ingrid Bergman that their littleproblems don't add up to a hill of beans in German-occupiedCasablanca. Besides, they always will have Paris.
Mole Antonelliana -- literally, Antonelli's Vast Structure -- wascommissioned in 1862 by Jewish scholars as a synagogue. ArchitectAllessandro Antonelli proposed a very big and very extravagant, houseof worship. Six years later, with the structure not even half-done,he ran out of money. Ten years after that, he finally persuaded cityelders to let him finish.
By then, it was well on its way to becoming a white elephant, anduncertainty abounded about the building's stability because of thearchitect's reputation for eccentricity and cutting corners.
For most of the 1900s, it was ignored. In 2000, after a massiverenovation, the cinema museum, the only one of its kind in Italy,moved in.
Its new home is breathtaking. A glass elevator pierces theinternal courtyard. Sleek, black pulleys raise it to the rafters,then gently drop it back.
Another glass lift takes visitors all the way to the top of thedome's spire, which affords a 360-degree view of the city and thestunning Alps that backdrop it.
Lavinia Farnesi is a volunteer with the International OlympicCommittee and attends college in Milan. Her college friend, SalvatoreVinci, also is a volunteer and she has accompanied him to the museumbecause he wants, more than anything, to be a film director. LikeFellini.
'For me, cinema is everything. Inventing stories is ...'
He wrings his hands, struggling to find the perfect description.He settles on 'wonderful.'
How do they like the museum?
'Very, very nice,' he says.
How about the toilets?
'Strange,' replies Farnesi.