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Special Treatment (DVD Review)

15 Jan, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 1/17/12
First Run
Box Office $0.009 million
$27.95 DVD
Not rated.
In French with English subtitles.
Stars Isabelle Huppert.

With a storyline contrasting the world of psychoanalysis with the oldest profession, French film Special Treatment could entertain in myriad intriguing manners. After all, who’s to judge an escort’s tricks from psychobabble?

Certainly not Alice (Isabelle Huppert), a bored middle-age high-end prostitute who is counting the johns required to purchase coveted personal effects for her apartment. That Alice can interchange mercenary roles, playing a schoolgirl, submissive wife and dominatrix with equally-detached emotion, underscores the need for a career or life change.

A parallel story features Xavier (Bouli Lanners), a successful psychiatrist who nonetheless finds himself lost in thousand-yard trances while clients ramble on about nothing. Being married to another psychiatrist doesn’t help at dinnertime, a predicament that soon finds the fastidious Xavier holed up in a fancy hotel (oddly) seeking physical pleasure.

Alice’s profession (or phone number) soon intertwines with Xavier’s imagined carnal desire. It is here that Treatment’s mundane script becomes “special,” as Alice perfunctorily explains her menu of sexual options and role-playing to an embarrassed Xavier. Of course, he doesn’t really want to get laid (a reprieve for viewers, considering his girth), while Alice really needs therapy and love. Doesn’t every woman?

Special Treatment requires an appreciation of French cinema, which means the patience to endure an occasional plodding scene or two of the ordinary with minimal dialogue, English subtitles and an incomplete ending. Then again, Huppert — one of France’s most critically acclaimed actors — is beguiling (at almost 60 years of age!) just standing there.

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