An unexpected double bill of kink today. Cinema is a broad church IMHO, and there’s room for everyone. That said, audiences will self-select for a drama about a grieving surgeon who seeks solace in the world of extreme BDSM. So with a new blu-ray edition out now of this niche but highly popular movie, I’ve been persuaded to re-nose my original review, written in March last year at the height of lockdown anxiety. Writer and director J.-P. Valkeapää’s drama went straight into Curzon’s top five most streamed films at the time, as well as getting picked up by Film 4 for terrestrial broadcast. A pick up via 2019’s Cannes, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is a fairly gruelling affair, but like other material on the Anti-Worlds imprint, is rewarding enough to recommend to consenting adults.
Somewhat bafflingly reviewed as ‘hardcore’ by one British broadsheet keen to establish their lack of credentials when it comes to outre sex, this is a seriously-minded exploration of grief. Tom of Finland star Pekka Strang plays Juha, a gifted and respected surgeon who is mourning his wife; any film that opens with a title card superimposed over a graphic image of surgery sets out a stall to shock. Juha doesn’t object when his teenage daughter announces she wants a tongue-stud for her birthday; a colleague warns that he is suppressing her natural teenage desire to rebel. But Juha’s mind is elsewhere, and he finds himself hunting down the service of a dominatrix Mona (Blade Runner 2049’s Krista Kosonen). Their relationship goes beyond customer and client, but Juha’s work demeanour changes from having a spring in his step to becoming a dishevelled mess. A collegue wants Juha to get a psychological evaluation to make sure that ‘all the Moomins are in the valley’, but Juha has a death wish in the worst way and only Mona can help.
Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is certainly uncomfortable to watch in the BDSM scenes, but otherwise inhabits a ground not dissimilar to The Killing Of A Sacred Deer or even Altered States. Both Strang and Kosonen do well to make their characters real, although he’s got a lot more to go on in terms of dialogue, and the final scenes land with some impact. Bafflingly released on horror imprint Shudder in the U.S., Dogs Don’t Wear Pants won’t be for everyone, and isn’t trying to be mainstream entertainment, but neither is it a sex film; it’s a well-intentioned drama about a relationship forged on the edge of what society allows. Kink is a part of life for many, and this Finnish drama is worth a look for consenting adults in their own homes.
Limited to 3000 copies, this new Anti-Workds blu-ray features a new Emglish language commentary from the director, plus fresh interviews with Strang and Kosonen, downloadable storyboards and more. The accompanying booklet has a useful essay by Anna Bogutskaya which references kink cinema from The Duke of Burgundy to 50 Shades of Grey, both of which are jumping-off points towards this.
Thanks to Zoe Flower for blu-ray access, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is out now via links below.