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Film Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Shrink and Call Girl Cross Paths in Wry French Romp
Alice Bergerac (Isabelle Huppert) is a Parisian call girl who discretely caters to a clientele of wealthy businessmen with kinky tastes. This means that she spends her days in a high class hotel dressed up like everything from a schoolgirl to a dominatrix in order to feed her johns’ bizarre fantasies.
Despite all the perverse behavior, it looks like Alice is providing a valuable service to the community. After all, these sessions are what enable some guys with serious issues to keep up appearances as well-adjusted family men.
Is it possible then that, other than being illegal, the world’s oldest profession shares some parallels with the practice of psychotherapy.
At least that is what is suggested by Special Treatment, a wry erotic romp directed by Jeanne Labrune, and based on a script she co-wrote with her longtime collaborator, Richard Debuisne. The picture does a decent job of highlighting some of the similarities between Alice’s line of work and that of Dr. Xavier Demestre (Bouli Lanners), a shrink who keeps his patients confidences while charging them by the hour to explore their darkest, antisocial impulses.
The big difference between the two protagonists is that Alice always leaves her customers satisfied, so to speak. Dr. Demestre’s, on the other hand, must make do with a more frustrating outcome.
In any case, the plot thickens when Alice and Xavier’s paths cross, which affords an opportunity to reflect upon the state of their personal lives. Alice may be a bit jaded about her job, but at least she’s in a fulfilling lesbian relationship with a fellow prostitute. The same can’t be said for the miserably-married Xavier, who’s just about at the end of his emotional rope.
Overall, Special Treatment proves to be a character-driven flick which does a better job of introducing its leads in intriguing fashion than doing much meaningful with them once the plot thickens. Furthermore, the erotic scenes seem surprisingly tame for a film obsessed, superficially, with lustful liaisons.
A curious cross of sex therapy and psychotherapy where nobody spends much time in bed or on the couch.
Good (2 stars)
In French with subtitles
Running time: 95 Minutes
Distributor: First Run Features
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
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