No doubt the brilliantly titled Dog Don’t Wear Pants may be perceived by some as the type of pseudo-provocative, Tinto Brass helmed bondage brouhaha which used to be deplored by Mary Whitehouse and released on VHS through the Redemption video label in the 1990s. But co-writer/director J-P Valkeapaa’s second feature is biting, spicy and electrifying film-making, melding Cronenberg, Roeg and Gaspar Noé into a dark, dreamy psychosexual drama that twists nerves, probes psyches, quickens pulses and tickles fancies with a glint in its eye, sting in its tail and sceptic, studded tongue in gullet.
The story centres on middle-aged surgeon Juha (Pekka Strang) and his teenage daughter Elli (Ilona Huta). A decade after the tragic death of Juha’s wife, he is still suffering from his grief/loss and unable to move on. That is until the day Juha stumbles upon the dungeon of dominatrix Mona (Krista Konsonen). After their first, brief encounter, Juha books to see Mona again but finds his fetish/fascination soon blossoming into obsession. Reality derails Juha into the “not quite cognisant” from which he must fight to regain the trust of his colleagues and love of his daughter.
Valkeapaa has crafted a fascinating character study that isn’t shy on extracting the dirt from the BDSM scene’s finger nails and frowned upon subcultural connotations. A Bertie’s assortment of boot licking, body worship and masochistic degradation ensues from the depths of Juha’s “depravity” before his consciousness sieves into supernatural purgation during moments of asphyxiation/”sex attack” strangulation. These transient sifts into dream scenes and memories reconnect Juha with his late wife and make DDWP more of a metaphysical character study than a sordid S&M entrenched art/sex drama.
Valkeapaa’s deep red/black visuals during dungeon scenes and grubby realism elsewhere, sharpen surface shocks and embed his (and co-writer Juhana Lume’s) script in such drama firing subtext and conjectural character development, to the point where watching DDWP tinkers on becoming as cathartic an experience as the one its protagonist is experiencing. The story momentarily slackens as Juha slides deeper into the BDSM scene, but the protagonist changes during these segments so a sense of progression is retained and reinforced by excellent performances, and editing by Mervi Junkkonen.
Many may wince while watching DDWP’s acts of “depravity” and violence, but it’s fantastically captured, not without context, and at least we’re way beyond the age of seedy, cheesy erotic, faux-Noir thrillers: the type of which surfaced in the 80s/90s, sacrificed plot/character development for elongated sex scenes which threatened to stretch into set pieces, and accompanied by sleazy saxophone solos.
Sex on the silver screen is rare nowadays and has to be justified by context and relevance (ala Dogs Don’t Wear Pants and The Terminator etc). While it would be nice to say that this due to a cultural ripening, it’s probably because all manner of deplorable smut can be accessed immediately at the tap of a shortcut by anyone on their smart phones: but that’s another article. In the meantime, for those yearning for something substantial, thought-provoking, disobedient, spiky and courageous/outrageous, DDWP is a cine-kink that will fit snuggly like a greasy PVC gimp mask.
Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is released in UK cinemas on Friday 20th March