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Amateur (1994) – DVD Review

Amateur DVD cover art


Written & Directed by Hal Hartley
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Martin Donovan, Elina Lowensohn, Damian Young, Parker Posey


  • “Making of” Featurette

Released by: Sony Pictures Classics
Rating: R
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Nope.

My Advice: Rent it if it’s your thing.

Thomas (Donovan) has amnesia. Then he meets up with Isabelle (Huppert). She’s an ex-nun who has found her niche writing pornography. She vows to help him find out who he is and how he got amnesia. What he doesn’t know is that he is a pornographer who has made his wife, Sophia (Lowensohn), into a world-famous porn queen. It seems she’s been running because she thought she killed Thomas. His sordid past, not to mention some bloodthirsty henchmen, are going to go their best to kill him.

[ad#longpost]I suppose this could have been worse. I guess. Maybe. The story is intriguing enough, but it’s just slow to get moving. The performances by Huppert, Donovan, and Lowensohn are just bizarre. They all seem to be trying to find some kind of “art house” performance that’s just out of their reach. The one who gets the closest to something that resembles the tone of the story is Donovan. He allows the audience to begin to like his character only to learn that he was a complete asshole in his life before the amnesia. The dialogue is very stiff and has a hard time letting the plot of the story get through.

One thing, though, the movie is beautifully shot. The director and cinematographer put together an amazing color palette and they frame their shots with an eerie grace and elegance. The minimalist choice with regards to the musical score is a little odd, but it helps to add to the tone of the movie. After all, the story revolves around a man with amnesia. It feels like the director was going for the lack of music to help convey that loneliness. Or else it was a budget thing. Either way, kudos.

The only special feature on the disc is a look at the making of the movie. It is filled with interviews with Hartley and the rest of the cast and crew. Don’t look for a fast paced featurette that jumps around a lot. In fact, the tone and pace of the featurette matches the tone and pace of the movie, which is appropriate, I think. One major thing jumps out with this featurette: it doesn’t spend a lot of time showing you clips of the cast and crew putting each other up on pedestals. So that was refreshing. Also, in the credits, it says that it was shot by the cast and crew of the movie on the set in 1993 and it has that feel about it. The people who put the featurette together had a vested interest in the movie and it shows. In fact, with the exception of the cover art and the menu, the whole DVD has the feel of a very low budget art-house film. The cover art should be changed to market the movie as such. As it stands now, it feels like its being promoted as a low budget softcore porn. It is definitely more than that.

Screen cap from Amateur Screen cap from Amateur

If you are into the art-house sort of film, you should check the movie out at least once. It’s worth the rental.

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