The erotic drama, ‘Special Treatment’ is a memorable journey for one simple fact. It stars a French actress by the name of Isabelle Huppert. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know a good deal about this talented actress before screening this film. Her performance is mesmerizing. There is something about her that makes you want to watch her in every scene. She plays a high-class Parisian prostitute whose age, early-fifties, makes her consider seeking the help of a psychiatrist to find the strength to leave the world’s oldest profession. In real life Huppert is 57-years- old. She’s still extremely attractive for her age. She’s never had a lick of plastic surgery either. For some reason, many European women age well. Huppert is no exception and it brings a steamy quality to the scenes.
Female director, Jeane Labrune cowrote the screenplay with Richard Debuisne, a collaborator of Jean-Luc Godard films during the 80s. Debuisne also appears as a psychiatrist in the story. Labrune’s opening scene is stylish. She shows Alice (Isabelle Huppert) setting up a role-playing session in a hotel room before the ‘john’ arrives. Alice wears an anime like school-girl outfit and a jet-black French cut wig. She goes through the motions with little feeling but it is obvious she is good at what she does. The story cuts to Xavier (Bouli Lanners) who is a burned-out psychiatrist whose marriage is on the rocks. Striking parallels are drawn between therapy and prostitution. It is the intersection of these two characters that thickens the plot.
The comparison between these two professions is uncanny. They both have clients, both charge for sessions, and both take on a role that serves a need for the other. Here are two individuals who are at the top of their profession and well-off; yet they are both dissatisfied with their lives. There is a hint of the film, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ in a few scenes. Quite often, without showing the sexual acts, the film teases us and uses double entendre to move the story forward. However, there is one scene where Xavier visits a private sex club that may be offensive to some viewers, but that is the only scene that crosses the line into softcore pornography.
The scenes between Hubbert and Lanners are the best in the film. When Alice agrees to meet Xavier at a hotel bar, he asks, “But is it you?” She proceeds to break down the prices for her various services like a cold professional. She makes no apologies for her high prices and you get the sense that her upscale clients like it this way too. Hubbert gives us a darkly intimate look at Alice’s internal world. This is the brilliance of her performance. At times, she conveys this angst without saying a word but you can see the pain and guilt she carries from her facial expressions. Xavier wants to see the woman behind the role-playing costumes and that is the angst of the film. Sadly, he may never get to meet the real Alice because she disguises herself so well.
We get a brief glimpse of Alice as herself when she hangs out with her best friend, Juliet (Sabila Moussadek) who is also a prostitute. In their free time, they visit antique shops. This is important because we see that Alice has a passion for art history. There is a statue of an angel that changes hands throughout the film. Labrune uses subtle religious undertone devices effectively. This is an ambitious film. The screenplay is not perfect. Yet even with its flaws, I liked the film. Some scenes leave you scratching your head but that’s okay. Like a partially satisfied client, the audience is left wanting more and that is the charm of ‘Special Treatment.’
Please visit First Run Features at http://www.firstrunfeatures.com/ to purchase a DVD of ‘Special Treatment’ among many other quality independent film titles.