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Amateur (1995)
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by Chris Parry

"On the Hartley scale it ranks fairly high. On any other scale..."
3 stars

You have to give Hal Hartley one thing. He can get away with dull, droll dialogue. "I'm sorry." "Do you know why you are sorry?" "No. [pause] I don't know why I'm sorry. [pause] But I am."

When a former nun (Isabelle Huppert) trying her hand at writing pornography, stumbles across a man with amnesia (Martin Donovan), she makes it her mission to help him back to health. But with every piece of his past that they discover it becomes clearer that her new friend was a nasty piece of work. A nasty piece of work with people out to kill him, no less. Enter Sophia (the gorgeous Elina Lowensohn), the man's former wife and infamous porn star, and some strange accountants, and things start to get more bizarre still.

Anyone familiar with Hartley's work knows he's non-commercial. Except maybe the folks who put up the cash for Flirt and Simple Men. Amateur was Hartley's ground-breaker - a money-maker that made people sit up and take notice. It's certainly got style and a certain European feel to it. It's Hartley through and through, but is it entertaining?

Well, yes, kinda. A bit. But you can guarantee that the average Joe megaplex attendee will be quickly bored by the pacing, and lack of... well.. crowd pops. It's a talkie flick, and while Hartley's characters and cast choices are always intriguing, there's only so long you can look at a car wreck before it get's old. For mine, there's just not enough happening in Amateur for it to be a 'must see'. The story drags, the dialogue lags, the dramatic pause count is incredibly high and stylish directing alone just can't carry a film through two hours.

The cast is strong. Huppert and Lowensohn are both fine actresses who deserve a bigger stage, Donovan is a bit plank-like, but passable for an actor playing a man who doesn't remember anything, and Hartley fave Parker Posey makes a small appearance.

Bottom line, a film geek will enjoy it. A film fan will be bored by it. European film fans will love it.

Sidenote: If one more video trumpets itself as "up there with Pulp Fiction" or "like Pulp Fiction" (as Amateur does on the front and back cover I saw) I shall personally get medieval on someone's ass. "Two thumbs up" and "Pulp Fiction" quotes are as redundant as the FBI warning before the previews. Enough already.

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originally posted: 01/26/99 21:13:47
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User Comments

2/09/17 Louise Unusual, stylish and hugely enjoyable! 5 stars
11/07/06 mike z better than "simple men", not as good as "trust" a worthy example of what a hartkey film is 4 stars
4/14/00 rowena Wicked movie!!!--Reminiscient of polanski's "Cul-de-Sac" which i love too!:) 5 stars
11/27/98 Mr.Pink Huppert plays a nymphomaniacal virgin ex-nun, who's job is writing porn stories. Bizarre! 4 stars
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  19-May-1995 (R)


  02-Feb-1996 (M)

Directed by
  Hal Hartley

Written by
  Hal Hartley

  Isabelle Huppert
  Martin Donovan
  Elina Lowensohn
  Damian Young

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