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Isabelle is an ex-nun waiting for her special mission from God. In the meantime, she is making a living writing pornography. She meets Thomas, a sweet, confused amnesiac who cannot remember that he used to be a vicious pornographer, responsible for turning his young wife, Sofia, into the world's most notorious porn queen. Sofia's on the run, convinced she's killed him. Together, Isabelle and Thomas set out to discover his past, a past waiting to catch up with him.
For more about Amateur and the Amateur Blu-ray release, see Amateur Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 9, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Martin Donovan, Elina Löwensohn, Damian Young, Erica Gimpel, Chuck Montgomery
Director: Hal Hartley
» See full cast & crew
Amateur Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 9, 2013
Hal Hartley's "Amateur" (1994) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye. The supplemental features on the disc include cast and crew interviews as well as a standard featurette with additional comments from director Hal Hartley and cast members. In English, without optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
They meet in a not so fancy cafe. Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert, La Cérémonie, White Material) has been spending most of her time there writing pornographic stories for the editor of a successful adult magazine. Thomas (Martin Donovan, The Portrait of a Lady, Simple Men) ends up in the cafe because he does not know where else to go. He can't remember his name, where he lives, or where he comes from.
After they talk Isabelle invites Thomas to her place. There she shows him a few of her magazines and asks if he might be interested in making love to her. He agrees, but her insistence that she is an ex-nun turned nymphomaniac who is still a virgin confuses him.
While Thomas is recuperating, in another cafe an elegant porn star (Elina Lowensohn, Flirt, Lourdes) meets a strange looking accountant (Damian Young, Edge of Darkness) who seems to be on the run. He mentions to her that another very powerful man from Amsterdam is looking for two very important floppy discs. Without telling the accountant that she knows where the floppy discs are, the porn star calls the man in Amsterdam and offers to sell them to him for $1 million dollars. The man from Amsterdam enthusiastically agrees to pay the price – and then immediately sends two kooky assassins (Chuck Montgomery and David Simonds) to get rid of the porn star and the accountant.
Soon after, Isabelle and Thomas meet the porn star and the accountant. Then the kooky assassins meet them.
If Orson Welles was still alive and making films today, there is a good chance that they might have been very similar to Hal Hartley's Amateur. Indeed, this is a very dark and at times irresistibly hilarious neo-noir film that surprises the viewer with very effective twists right until the final credits roll.
The film's biggest strength is the elegant dialog. The various exchanges between the main characters are full with terrific one-lines that hit all sorts of different targets. A few are quite bizarre, but Hartley knows exactly how far to go and stop before the entire film becomes a kitschy fantasy of sorts.
The second act reminds of Bound, the Wachowskis' debut, though none of the main protagonists here have a long-term survival plan. They simply go with the flow. There is also a lot of talk about sex, but no one seems particularly interested in delivering on their promises.
The cast is very good. Huppert looks appropriately confused as the ex-nun who mixes pornography with poetry. Donovan is also excellent as the amnesiac who has absolutely no idea why a porn star would know everything he cannot remember. Dressed in black and speaking with an accent, Lowensohn looks very beautiful in this film. Young is perfect as the crazy accountant who desperately needs a haircut.
Amateur was lensed by Hartley's regular director of photography Michael Spiller (Simple Men, Trust).
Note: In 1994, Amateur won Silver Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
Amateur Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Hal Hartley's Amateur arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye.
The Blu-ray release represents a major upgrade in quality over the R1 DVD release of Amateur which Sony Pictures released back in 2003. Excluding some extremely light compression artifacts that occasionally sneak in but never become distracting, the high-definition transfer excels in every single area we scrutinize in these reviews. Detail and especially image depth are indeed dramatically improved. Contrast levels are also stable, especially during the darker indoor footage. Color reproduction is also very pleasing - there is a good range of strong, stable and very natural colors. The best news is that there are no traces of excessive degraining and sharpening corrections. Needless to say, from start to fhins Amateur has a very strong organic appearance. Lastly, there are no large damage marks, cuts, debris, or stains to report in this review. All in all, there is no doubt in my mind that fans of Amateur who still own or have seen the R1 DVD release of the film, as well as those who are going to see it for the first time, will be very pleased with its transition to Blu-ray. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Amateur Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Artificial Eye have not provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Amateur is primarily a dialog driven feature. Naturally, dynamic movement in quite limited. The music score by Jeffrey Taylor and Hal Hartley occasionally makes itself felt - mostly during sequences where the gentle piano themes are heard - but it never dramatically alters the film's atmosphere. The dialog is very crisp, very clear, and exceptionally easy to follow. Also, there are absolutely no pops, cracks, audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review.
Amateur Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Amateur Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This is shaping up to be a very special year for fans of director Hal Hartley and his work. In the United Kingdom, Artificial Eye are bringing to Blu-ray Amateur, Simple Men, and The Unbelievable Truth, while in North America Olive Films have upgraded Trust, Meanwhile, and Flirt. Amateur, arguably one of Hartley's best films and one of my favorite, looks very good on Blu-ray. If you like dark yet hillarious films with an attitude, make sure to pick it up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Amateur Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Upcoming Artificial Eye Releases - January 31, 2013
Independent British distributors Artificial Eye have informed us that they are planning to add four films to their impressive Blu-ray catalog: Hal Hartley's The Unbelievable Truth (1989), Simple Men (1992), and Amateur (1994), and Cate Shortland's Lore (2012), ...
Amateur Blu-ray Screenshots
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