Amateur on Blu-ray – The DVDfever Review – Hal Hartley


Amateur begins with Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert), a nun sat in a coffee shop, writing pornography on her laptop to earn a living, much to the annoyance of the cafe owner – not because of her choice of profession, but because she spends all day in there while drinking hardly any coffee.

Meanwhile, Martin Donovan plays a man who wakes up in the street, with an injury to his neck, and not knowing who he is or how he got there. He meets up with Isabelle as he walks into the beverage emporium and they immediately strike up a conversation, which begins with their current predicaments and continues, later, with her asking the mystery man if he’d make love to her, which illicits the response:

    Him: “But you don’t even know my name.”
    Isabelle: “*You* don’t even know your name.”

And before long, after declaring she’s a nymphomaniac,

    he asks: “Have you ever had sex?”
    Isabelle: “No.”
    Him: “How can you be a nymphomaniac if you’ve never had sex?”
    Isabelle: “I’m choosy.”

Sofia (Elina Löwensohn) is an adult movie star who thinks she’s killed the mystery man, although she, of course, knows him as Thomas, but what is her deal, exactly? The reasons to all of these questions will become clear as the movie progresses, and because of that, Amateur is a film you can’t really go into detail about because most of the entertainment comes from just watching it play out and seeing where it leads as Thomas tries to piece together what’s happened.

There’s a very theatrical performance from the two leads which is partly balletic and partly hilarious. And I particularly love the visual style, throughout, when there’s often a conversation between two people, but only one of them is in shot at the time and the camera stays on that person, only bringing the other one into it, or changing to them, when it’s strictly necessary. That’s something I haven’t seen before (apart from in the days of 1980s television when a Cinemascope film would get cropped to 4:3 and you’d only see one person anyway).

Add to that the wonderful lighting and you have a film that’s a treat to watch.

The film is presented in 16:9, even though the original theatrical ratio was the slightly less wide 1.66:1 – shame they didn’t pillarbox this slightly to get it exactly spot-on. In 1080p high definition, there’s a slight amount of grain to the picture but nothing to worry about and could well be just down to how long ago it was filmed, and the fact it’s a low-budget movie.

Soundwise, this disc only contains a 2.0 LPCM Stereo Soundtrack, as originally made for the film, and not a DTS one, despite what my amp appeared to claim.

There are only two extras on this disc:

  • Interviews (14:51): Q&As – with silent boards being in position of the questions – with Hal Hartley, talking about his reasons for making the film and various aspects around it; Martin Donovan, on playing a character with amnesia, working with Hal Hartley and working in New York; plus producer Ted Hope and Isabelle Huppert, Elina Löwensohn and Damian Young.

    These were filmed at the time of it being made, so the footage is in 4:3 and looking very much of the era. There’s only two chapters for all five interviews, so someone hasn’t done their maths properly.

  • Professional Amateurs: The Making of Hal Hartley’s Amateur (13:56): More chat from the cast and crew with a slight amount of on-set filming – albeit nothing major to get stuck into. Sadly, a lot of the chat seems to be what we’ve already heard in the interviews section, which is disappointing.

The menu features a small section of the incidental music over and over, there are no subtitles whatsoever which is a ridiculous omission these days, and the chaptering is a woeful 12 over the 105-minute running time. I go by the rule of thumb of one every five minutes, taking into account one each for the opening and closing credits.


Detailed specs:

Running time: 105 minutes
Year: 1994
Date of release: May 13th 2013
Distributor: Artificial Eye
Chapters: 12
Cat no: ART062BD
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 2.0 LPCM Stereo
Languages: English
Subtitles: None
Widescreen: 1.78:1
Disc Format: BD50

Director: Hal Hartley
Producers: Hal Hartley and Ted Hope
Screenplay: Hal Hartley
Music: Hal Hartley (as Ned Rifle) and Jeffrey Taylor

Isabelle: Isabelle Huppert
Thomas Ludens: Martin Donovan
Sofia Ludens: Elina Löwensohn
Edward, Jaque’s Accountant: Damian Young
Jan, Jaque’s Goon: Chuck Montgomery
Kurt, Jaque’s Goon: Dave Simonds
Officer Patsy Melville: Pamela Stewart
Irate Woman: Erica Gimpel