PARIS -- In a darkened garage, people leaning on cars or squatting on the concrete floor watch gleefully as Chicago cops pursue the Blues Brothers -- one of the funniest, most elaborate car chases in the history of film.

Then the careening, tire-squealing sequence from Luc Bresson's "Subway" flashes onto the screen, followed by Steve McQueen's wheeled duel with a villain in "The Hunter."

The films viewed in a movie-set garage are just one part of an exhibition linking five major cities and the cinema.

Cites-Cines, as the $7 million show is called, combines real film sets and 3 1/2 hours of extracts from some of the industry's greatest works.

It sprawls over 9,500 square yards of the wrought iron and glass Grande Halle at La Villette, a science and cultural center in northeastern Paris.

Here visitors walk onto life-sized film sets, to sit on the sloping roofs of Paris, for example, and see clips from films by Franc ois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Ernst Lubitsch treating the same subject -- the City of Light and its upper environs.

Or seated at metal desks lit by gooseneck lamps, as in a real-life or film-version police station, they see film clips about night in the city.

Franc ois Barre, La Villette director, said the idea for Cites-Cines came from exhibitions he and architect Franc ois Confino had done on films about architecture.

"The documentaries about architecture were boring," said Barre. "But when Federico Fellini makes a film about Rome, Woody Allen about Manhattan or Marcel Carne and Jacques Prevert about Paris ... that becomes magic."

"The modern city and the cinema have in some senses grown up at the same time," he added. "Architecture and the cinema are two modes of expression that work with movement and the tension between space and its inhabitants."

The five cities chosen are Tokyo, Paris, Rome, New York and Berlin.

Film sets evoke the Berlin Wall, with film of the genuine article from Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire."

A section on an imaginary city groups clips from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" and Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner."

To heighten the sense of participation, visitors are given headsets triggered by infrared lights to make the sound correspond to the exhibit as they walk through the immense area.

Films from the world's greatest directors are there -- Akira Kurosawa of Japan, Rene Clair of France, Werner-Reiner Fassbinder of West Germany, American Vincent Minnelli and dozens of others.

The exhibition, said Confino, differs in approach from Disney World, traditional exhibitions or from the popular tour of Universal Studios in Hollywood, where tourists are given a peek but not allowed into an actual shoot.

"Here the spectators become in a sense the actors; they're on the movie sets," he said. "There is always a link between fiction and reality that is rather strange."

"Curiously, there's never been a large exhibition on film in the major museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York or the Pompidou Center in Paris," said Barre.

The exhibition runs until Feb. 28.