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  Traitement de Choc Taking Years Off You
Year: 1973
Director: Alain Jessua
Stars: Alain Delon, Annie Girardot, Robert Hirsch, Michel Duchaussoy, Gabriel Cattand, Jeanne Colletin, Robert Party, Jean Roquel, Roger Muni, Lucienne Legrand, Anne-Marie Deschott, Salvino Di Pietra, Gabriella Cotta Ramusino, Nicole Gueden
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Wealthy businesswoman Hélène Masson (Annie Girardot) has been feeling her age catching up with her recently, so has taken advantage of an offer to attend an exclusive health spa on the Portuguese coast for what are promised to be remarkable results. It is said that the head doctor there, Devilers (Alain Delon), can work miracles with the flesh of those who are getting on in years, and when Hélène arrives to see how healthy and youthful-looking the middle aged guests are, she can well believe it. Yet her friend Jerome (Robert Hirsch), who invited her, seems to have something on his mind...

After spending a few fruitless years trying to get his Julie Christie-starring science fiction epic off the ground, filmmaker Alain Jessua was broke and growing disillusioned until he attended a health resort to replenish his creative juices, and came up with Traitement de Choc as a good substitute for his failed enterprise. Once he had Girardot and Delon on board, he had a hit on his hands, and this is possibly his best known work outside France, but not so much for this themes or suspense he brought out in his thriller storyline, and more because of one specific scene which occurs about a third of the way in.

If you know that this was not only sold abroad as Shock Treatment, a straight translation of the French, but as Doctor in the Nude, then you'll twig what the selling point to Jessua's movie had been. That's right, although it makes the film sound like a sex comedy, which it was not, there is a sequence that features the whole cast, or just about, frolicking starkers on the beach. The guests at the spa are very free and easy with their rejuvenated forms, and this is summed up by that bit where they all go skinny-dipping, with Monsieur Delon himself persuaded to join them, and leaving nothing to the imagination as he does so. Oh la la!

But there's far more to this than movie stars getting naked, as Jessua had a serious point to make about the powers that be, which is who the guests represent here. The trouble is, once you know that not only is this a thriller, but a horror movie as well, you're way ahead of Hélène as she grows suspicious and tries to get to the heart of what is actually occuring at the treatment centre. When she notices that the staff, who seem to be young and virile at first, are becoming paler and have a tendency to collapse at inopportune moments, we put two and two together and work out what the secret ingredient in those special injections Devilers hands out are, and we are meant to draw from this a view that, once again, the rich are exploiting the poor.

Jerome is struggling with financial worries, and thinks he may not be able to pay his bills, a not so subtle way of showing that he is now one of the impoverished and therefore vulnerable to the authorities, here those medical staff. He has already surmised what is happening, but for reasons unclear - possibly guilt - he cannot tell Hélène what he knows, until one night the pressure gets too much and he drops heavy hints to her while they're in bed. Next day, he has disappeared, but they do find him... This sets our heroine on her mission to sleuth, which Girardot handles with just the right tone of sensitivity, making us worry for her and rightly so, in neat contrast to Delon's customary ladykilling charm which Jessua turns on its head in interesting ways. If it is predictable, it does have a novel way of going about its social commentary, dragging in influences such as colonialism and an attack on the emerging cosmetic surgery fashion, and its queasily antiseptic visuals are to its benefit. Music by Jessua and René Koering.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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