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AMATEUR (director/writer: Hal Hartley; cinematographer: Michael Spiller; editor: Steve Hamilton; music: Jeff Taylor/Ned Rifle; cast: Isabelle Huppert (Isabelle), Martin Donovan (Thomas), Elina Lowensohn (Sofia), Damian Young (Edward), Chuck Montgomery (Jan), David Simonds (Kurt), Pamela Stewart (Officer Patsy Melville), Erica Gimpel (Angry Woman), Jan Leslie Harding (Waitress), Terry Alexander (Frank the cook), David Greenspan (George, the pornographer), Dwight Ewell (Boy Squatter), Parker Posey (Girl Squatter); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Hal Hartley/Ted Hope; Sony Pictures Classics; 1994-USA / France / UK)
An enjoyable quirky-humored hit man flick.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Indie filmmaker Hal Hartley’s (“Trust”/”The Unbelievable Truth”/”Simple Men”) fourth film is an enjoyable quirky-humored hit man flick, that features his usual idiosyncrasies and deadpan delivery of weird dialogue along with some stylized action sequences that are violent–something you don’t expect from this director. It’s an acquired taste, that might not appeal to all.

An unidentified, well-dressed man wakes up bloodied in the Manhattan gutter with memory loss and Dutch money in his pocket, and enters a coffee shop. Ex-nun Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert) befriends him there and invites him to stay in her apartment to recuperate. Isabelle is a virgin but thinks of herself as a nymphomaniac, explaining this contradiction by saying “I’m choosy.” The lady sits all day in the coffee shop writing erotic stories for a man (David Greenspan) operating a porn ‘zine willing to pay for something spicy, and takes that task seriously even when insulted by the angry waitress for taking up table space from normal paying customers.

While trying to discover the identity of the amnesiac, the oddball twosome cross paths with famous porn star Sofia (Elina Lowensoh), her hubby’s accountant (Damian Young), and two yuppy Wall-Street-like philosophizing hitmen (Chuck Montgomery & David Simonds) sent from Amsterdam by a European arms merchant and investor in porn films to either kill Thomas (Martin Donovan)–he’s the amnesiac with a criminal past who is married to porn star Sofia–or the suddenly crazed accountant or Sofia. It seems that the trio are blackmailing Mr. Big with an incriminating floppy disk over government corruption. How it plays out is bizarre, with some different twists than the way you would expect your usual crime drama to end.

If there’s a serious message about redemption and exploitationit’s well-hidden in all the crazy talk about sex, floppy disks and one’s sordid or too pure past. Any hope for love in the contemporary modern world seems to be a dim prospect for these off-beat characters, who lack the proper social skills to be anything but amateurs when it comes to romance or dealing with hitmen.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”