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Turin for Film Lovers

It was a film that led me to Turin. I was stunned by a giant edifice topped by a spire which towered over the city. It was the Mole Antonelliana, a vivid name alluding to both its blunt presence and its designer, Alessandro Antonelli, who had initially conceived of it as a synagogue. I discovered it in a humble but significant independent film entitled Dopo Mezzanotte (After Midnight), by Davide Ferrario, who lives in the city and has shot many of his films there. It is a hymn to cinema, a passion triangle with the action set in the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, which has been housed in the Mole since 2000. With an area of 3,200 square metres, it is the largest in Europe dedicated to “the Seventh Art”. It is a highly original, spectacular exhibition, both for its location and the layout of its collections, including pre-cinematographic devices, magic lanterns, and both old and modern stage items – notably masks from Star Wars and Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Superman’s cloak and Marilyn Monroe’s bodice. It is actually one of the most frequented museums in Italy, quite a feat in a country with such a rich history and art heritage. It is also the site of the Turin Film Festival, next slated for 20 to 28 November, which has featured such filmmakers as Nanni Moretti, Gianni Amelio and Paolo Virzi.

The City that Bewitched Risi, Tornatore and Argento

The fact that Turin was Italy’s first capital is evident in its cinema, from Neorealism to erotic comedies, with a profusion of such explicit detective films as Double Game, Black Turin and Torino, centrale del vizio. It was in Turin that the master of horror movies and self-confessed lover of the city, Dario Argento, shot several scenes from one of his first hits, The Cat o' Nine Tails. He went on to film in their entirety his latest works, Do You Like Hitchcock?, Sleepless (Non ho sonno) and Giallo.

The city of the Juventus and Torino football clubs, the annual contenders at the “Derby della Mole”, is also an obligatory stop on the journeys depicted in the perennial classics. Enrico Loverso emigrates from the poor south to the Turinese industrial north in The Way We Laughed (Così ridevano) by Gianni Amelio. In Everybody's Fine (Stanno tutti bene), by Giuseppe Tornatore, an elderly, splendid Marcello Mastroianni visits his adult children distributed across Italy and finds the last of them – of course – in Turin. And, the irascible blind captain played by Vittorio Gassman sets off from Turin station in Scent of a Woman, directed by Dino Risi (the remake, with Al Pacino, came years later). Risi also happened to make his cinema debut in the same Alpine city, when he was assistant director during the shoot of Piccolo mondo antico (Little Ancient World), and it was there, too, that he one night declared his eternal love to the stunning actress, Alida Valli, while they were sitting in a carriage in the rain, in the romantic, lush gardens of the Parco Valentino.

The Setting for Robberies and Spies in American Movies

In The Pink Panther 2, with Steve Martin, one of the city’s most prized treasures is stolen – no less than the Turin Shroud. However, the film that has probably set Turin most on the map is the 1969 cult movie, The Italian Job, by Peter Collinson (which has seen a recent remake). In it, Michael Caine flees with his loot from the carabinieri in his Mini Coopers, through the Palazzo Carignano, along the inner staircases of the Palazzo Madama and around the exterior of the Gran Madre di Dio Church, skidding through the glamorous Galleria San Federico shopping centre, and driving over the flared roof of the Palazzo a Vela, built for the Italia 61 Exhibition and refurbished as a sports centre for the 2006 Winter Olympics. He also drives up the heady oval test track on the old FIAT factory – the city’s veritable economic driving force for decades – housed in the Lingotto building, now a multidisciplinary space for trade fairs and festivals. In his final getaway, his Minis reach the nearby Alps, the formidable mountain range which acts as the backdrop for this stunning city, after having crossed the river Po.

And, opposite the Po stands the majestic Piazza Vittorio Veneto, which appears in The Bourne Ultimatum, a saga starring Matt Damon. However, the café where we later see the fired up secret agent sitting is actually in Madrid! The fact is that the film crew were back working in Spain when a change to the script forced them to repeat the shoot of the scene originally filmed in Turin. The magic of cinema always involves some hidden devices!

If you fancy seeing the city for yourself, secure your ticket here!


Text by Carlos G. Vela para ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by Felipe Cadona Colombo, Jean-Pierre Dalbera, Luigi Giordano, Marco Coïsson, MarkusMark, Nicola Gambetti