Dogs Don't Wear Pants

 

starstarstarhalf

 


A broken man and a dominatrix establish a tricky professional/emotional bond.

   
Dogs Don't Wear Pants
  

The title is unlikely to mean a lot to the casual filmgoer. And it’s certainly not the latest in the recent slew of canine distractions. The world inhabited by this dark, unsparing Finnish drama overlaps with those depicted in Last Tango in Paris (1972), In the Realm of the Senses (1976) and in particular Barbet Schroeder's Maîtresse (1975, with Gérard Depardieu and Bulle Ogier). The dog of the title is the client of a dominatrix who is required to crawl on all fours - and most definitely cannot wear undergarments (unless studded and made of leather).

 

Juha, a high-flying heart surgeon, is played by Pekka Strang, whose previous foray into the Finnish underworld was as the homoerotic and highly controversial artist Touko Laaksonen, better known around the world as Tom of Finland. Strang, who bears more than a passing resemblance to the British journalist Will Self, is one brave actor.

 

The film starts on a worryingly idyllic note – perhaps too idyllic. Juha is playing with his little girl, Elli, on a balmy summer’s day by a picturesque stretch of water. He is rowing, she is laughing and when he takes a siesta, his wife – and Elli’s mother – goes for a swim. When Juha attempts to save her, his own near-drowning becomes a defining moment in his psychological make-up. Years later, Juha is a changed man and Elli a rebellious teen who, as a birthday treat, is having her tongue pierced. Unable to witness the ritual mutilation of his child, Juha wanders downstairs and finds himself in a S&M dungeon where he is attacked by a dominatrix, Mona (Krista Kosonen). Understandably shaken by the incident, Juha is also intrigued, and decides to go back for more…

 

An exploration of grief, obsession and the dark recesses of sexual expression, Dogs Don't Wear Pants exudes an arid black humour set at right angles with a nuanced compassion. Even as Juha’s domestic and professional life unravels, it is not above laughing at the ridiculousness of the surgeon’s fall from grace. The film succeeds at drawing the viewer in by the largely naturalistic, understated performances and a forensic air of quiet desperation. And while it is likely to prove emetic to many, it is an education. When Mona knocks back a few bottles of water, we can but imagine why. Any varnish left over from the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is ripped off by the fingernails here; in one scene, quite literally.

 

Original title: Koirat eivät käytä housuja.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Pekka Strang, Krista Kosonen, Ilona Huhta, Jani Volanen, Oona Airola, Ester Geislerová, Ellen Karppo.

 

Dir J-P Valkeapää, Pro Aleksi Bardy and Helen Vinogradov, Screenplay J-P Valkeapää and Juhana Lumme, Ph Pietari Peltola, Pro Des Kaisa Mäkinen, Ed Mervi Junkkonen, Music Michal Nejtek, Costumes Sari Suominen.

 

Helsinki Filmi-Anti-Worlds Releasing.

104 mins. Finland/Latvia. 2019. Rel: 20 March 2020. Available on Curzon Home Cinema. Cert. 18.