On Screen: Snapshots of Amsterdam


photograph courtesy of Mor (bcnbits)
photograph courtesy of Mor (bcnbits)

When we think of Amsterdam, romance is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. The city’s depiction in film has mostly been relegated to stories of Anne Frank, tales of horror (Hostel begins in A’dam, need we say more?) and movies detailing the, um, distinctive local merchandise (Cheech and Chong’s Still Smokin).

A more wistful, romantic side of Amsterdam is displayed in the 2002 Snapshots, a low-budget charmer starring Burt Reynolds as a owner of a ramshackle American bookstore right off one of Amsterdam’s more picturesque canals.

While the film occasionally stumbles into the Amsterdam cliché well, we’ve never seen a better looking stroll through the distinctive cobblestones and backalleys of this beautiful city. The film opens adrift upon a canal, passing houseboats on a typical gray Amsterdam morning. So vivid, so gorgeous.

In Snapshots narrative, a young backpacker (Carmen Chaplin) in search of a hostel has a rather eye-opening encounter in the tourist-filled red light district before taking employment at Burt’s shop. The bookseller soon realizes that he shares a unique connection to the girl’s past, whose mother (played by the always gorgeous Julie Christie) is also delightful.

One of the film’s endearing revelations occurs at the Rijksmuseum as the characters gaze at the beautiful Rembrandt classics and suddenly realize a potential romantic connection. Sure beats finding love at one of the “smoking” coffee shops.

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