Uneasy, deadpan and intelligently funny, this film by Hal Hartley is a weird experience, though not one you are likely to regret having. For all its oddness, the story is consistently involving, the acting terrifically entertaining and the ending memorable and poignant.
Isabelle Huppert, a superb French actor famous for work as diverse as Michael Haneke’s films The Piano Teacher and Time of the Wolf and David O. Russell’s offbeat comedy I Heart Huckabees, is on top form here. She plays a former nun who has left the convent to become a writer of erotic literature. One morning in a New York café she befriends a man who has just woken up in the street. He cannot remember his name or why he was lying on the ground in the first place.
Whilst all this is going on, we also follow the tumultuous life of a famous porn actor (played by Elina Löwensohn). She finds herself in a very dodgy situation with some tough guys who aren’t afraid to use torture to get their way. And it’s all tied in with our friendly amnesiac.
If this all sounds very strange, don’t worry: it is. But Hal Hartley guides the viewer through these people’s lives with warm hands, offering an inviting look at a range of fascinating individuals through his subtly comic gaze.
A note on the disc: Though newly available on Blu-ray, only a DVD copy was available to review. However, the DVD supplied boasts a superb transfer, with terrific quality, depth and strong colours (though Hartley isn’t one to flood the screen with vibrant tones). There is also a good level of grain on the screen too, so any fears of excessive Digital Noise Reduction can be safely extinguished. If the DVD looks this impressive, the Blu-ray must be a stunner.
Amateur (1994), directed by Hal Hartley, is released on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK on 13 May by Artificial Eye, Certificate 15.