The experience of cinemagoing has changed dramatically in the era of streaming and COVID, as audiences increasingly choose to watch movies in the comfort and safety of their homes. As remarkable as our ever-widening high-def televisions may be, however, there is an excitement and romance to the experience of watching a film in a theater that home theaters will never replace. Every film lover holds a trove of beloved cinemagoing memories: stepping out of a dilapidated arthouse theater into a rainy afternoon, or sitting in a cavernous multiplex auditorium, cheering along with hundreds of fellow movie fans as the opening credits of a summer blockbuster burst onto the screen. For dedicated cinema buffs, cities are defined by their great old movie houses: Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome; Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse; New York City’s East Village Cinema.
The Silver Screen Cities series of travel books by Scottish-born David Kintore, a self-described flâneur—a passionate urban wanderer, one who strolls down city streets, observing and cataloging experiences—is premised on the idea of getting to know a city through its movie theaters. The books combine elements of travel guides, film reviews, and personal essays, bringing readers along for the ride as Kintore prowls the theaters, cafés, bars, and other attractions of the cities he visits. In SILVER SCREEN CITIES AMSTERDAM & BRUSSELS (other volumes include Tokyo & London and Lisbon), Kintore visits cinemas such as Amsterdam’s Studio K, Pathé Tuschinski, and the Vendôme and Cinemathek in Brussels, offering not just film reviews but his impressions of the entire experience, from the theater to the bars and restaurants he visits afterward.
Kintore’s intimate, beautifully rendered accounts of his wanderings read like letters from a witty, cultured, and sharply observant friend. As the author kills a few hours before a from a screening of the 1948 drama The Red Shoes (“The plot and theme may appear lovey-dovey and twee but the film is far from that”) at Amsterdam’s EYE Film Institute, he stops by a Belgian beer café, Gollems Proeflokaal, where “a cat with amazing green eyes sits primly by the closed door…the cat’s piercing eyes seem to stare right through me.” In Brussels, lunching at Le Trappiste before seeing Jan Švankmajer’s Surviving Life (“I like Svankmajer’s melancholy self-deprecation”), Kintore observes: “It’s great to be ensconced here, tucking into a plate of stoemp. The sausage is curled under the mashed potato like a smiling mouth under an enormous bulbous nose.” Garrulous and droll, Kintore is the ideal tour guide, dropping fascinating historical and cultural facts along with (only occasionally grumpy) opinions on Dutch and Belgian beers, Magritte paintings, local restaurants, and a wealth of colorful anecdotes. (His lengthy account of losing his wallet at the Pathé Tuschinski at a screening of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby—”I am mildly relieved when it ends”—is a highlight of the Amsterdam section.)
Written with the enthusiasm, erudition, and cinematic eye of a dedicated explorer, David Kintore’s evocative, lavishly detailed SILVER SCREEN CITIES AMSTERDAM & BRUSSELS is not only a cinephile’s delight but a book to be savored by anyone curious to experience the riches to be found in cities around the world.
~Edward Sung for IndieReader