Friday, November 01, 2019

Koirat eivät käytä housuja / Dogs Don't Wear Pants

Dogs Don't Wear Pants [also the Swedish title].
    FI/LV 2019 © Helsinki-filmi Oy. PC: Helsinki-filmi Oy / Tasse Film. P: Aleksi Bardy, Helen Vinogradov. D: J–P Valkeapää. SC: J–P Valkeapää, Juhana Lumme – original story: Juhana Lumme. DP: Pietari Peltola – colour – 2,35:1. PD: Kaisa Mäkinen. Cost: Sari Suominen. Makeup: Beata Rjabovska. VFX: Jari Hakala, Sampo Siren. M: Michal Nejtek. S: Micke Nyström. ED: Mervi Junkkonen. BDSM experts: Valtiatar Villi-Ira, Jared Flame Herbohn. Tattoo and piercing expert: Gunta Vlasenko. Songs include:
– Christian Petzold: Menuet G-dur (1725) *
– "Then He Kissed Me" (Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector, 1963). [Version: "Then I Kissed Her"].
– ”Adagio per flauto: Archi e organo” (attributed to Albinoni, comp. Remo Giazotto, 1958).
    C: Pekka Strang (Juha), Krista Kosonen (Mona), Ilona Huhta (Elli), Jani Volanen (a doctor, Juha's co-worker), Oona Airola (Satu), Iiris Anttila (piercer), Ester Geislerová (wife), Ellen Karppo (Elli at 4), Samuel Shipway (Elli's boyfriend).
    Filmed in Latvia. Language: Finnish. Finnish rating: 16. 105 min
    Festival premiere: 21 May 2019, Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, Festival de Cannes.
    Finnish premiere: 1 Nov 2019, distributed by SF Studios, with Swedish subtitles by Frej Grönholm.
    DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 6, Helsinki, 1 Nov 2019.

Sado-masochism is rare in Finnish cinema. The most prominent representative so far has been Veikko Aaltonen's Tuhlaajapoika (The Prodigal Son, 1992). Because Leea Klemola is in its female leading role, associations run to Auli Mantila's Neitoperho (The Collector, 1997) in which she starred. It is not about S/M but one could easily imagine Leea Klemola as a fearsome Lady Domina. Jouni Hokkanen has made the stylish documentaries Kinbaku – Art of Bondage (2009) and Body of God (2013, about piercing). Let's not forget Teuvo Tulio's Sensuela (1973) in which Laila (Marianne Mardi) during her éducation sentimentale becomes a performer in an international touring S/M show.  In Teemu Nikki's Armomurhaaja / Euthanizer (2017) there is a strangling motif in the love affair. Regarding tooth-pulling we can remember Erkki Karu's When Dad Has Toothache (1922).

J-P Valkeapää's Dogs Don't Wear Pants is a stylish and compelling saga set in the world of sado-masochism. In the end credits I register a long list of participants at Club Caviar. Of Barbet Schroeder's Maîtresse (1976) it is told that habitués of S/M studios queued to be included, and I would not be surprised if something similar would have happened with Dogs Don't Wear Pants. The BDSM experts used by the production team include a genuine maîtresse, Valtiatar Villi-Ira, a reigning figure on the scene.

The movie proceeds in dream mode, a twilight zone between dream and being awake. Juha (Pekka Strang) is often in bed, underwater or in an altered state of consciousness which is the goal of his S/M explorations. The cast of characters is reduced to a minimum. The ambience is predominantly dark, either indoors or in nighttime exteriors. The Lady Domina of this tale is Mona (Krista Kosonen), and there is a fairy-tale element in Juha's landing accidentally into her den. Juha has actually only come to escort his daughter Elli (Ilona Huhta), who insists on tongue piercing.

No explanation is given to Juha's S/M addiction, but the film starts with a tragic prelude in which Juha's wife drowns in the lake of the family's summer dacha. Accident or suicide? We'll never know. Juha's mental balance is shattered, and he finds solace in the slave / dog / submissive / masochistic role of the S/M performance. In the state of suffocation he hallucinates about being underwater back at the lake, revisiting his wife's last moments alive, trying to release her from a fishnet.

His is an obsessive case of Wiederholungszwang. At first he just receives enormous pleasure from the return to the underwater scene. But increasingly he seems to be caught in the the death drive itself. Juha has had a near death experience and an early taste of how easy it would be just to give up and let go, be free of the pain and suffering... of the loss of his beloved wife... and life itself. This is where Mona refuses to participate.

Meanwhile, Juha has been a terrible single father, morbidly stuck to the memory of his dead wife like the protagonists of Edgar Allan Poe. Fortunately Elli is now a teenager with a healthy disrespect towards the excuses of her father. She is transferring her feelings and finding a new emotional object in her first boyfriend.

Juha reluctantly essays a regular heterosexual relationship – with his daughter's music teacher Satu (Oona Airola). Elli apparently would prefer her father to team with Satu. But even in bed with Satu Juha is only aroused by his wife's favourite perfume and sensations derived from his S/M pain trip. Juha is so incomprehensible for Satu that she cracks up into laughter. In an odd twist to their erotic encounter, Satu insists in playing "Adagio" (the famous one attributed to Albinoni, actually composed by Giazotto in 1958), the popular funeral tune, because she finds it very sexy.

Krista Kosonen is again the consummate professional in the female leading role, and she covers perfectly the double life of Mona who is a physiotherapist in her main occupation and a dominatrix as a sideline. She is great in every detail, but there is a slight hint that she does not feel at home on the dark side. Good for her.

Mona in this movie is an incarnation of death, and her make-up is a death mask. It has affinities with the mask-like make-up of kabuki. It brings to mind the ghost princesses in Japanese horror / fantasy films like Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo) in Ugetsu monogatari. It also evokes Death (Bengt Ekerot) in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. And why not even Fritz Lang's Death (Bernhard Goetzke) in Der müde Tod.

Pekka Strang is at his best in the mysterious role of Juha. He is a secret to himself. He seems to carry a multiple guilt: a guilt in case his wife committed suicide, a guilt of his not being able to rescue her, and a guilt of neglecting his daughter. He is nearly losing everything: the love of his daughter, his respected position as a surgeon at the hospital – and even his instinct of self preservation.

He may be suffering from survivor guilt, also known as concentration camp syndrome. To quote Wikipedia: "They are described as having a pattern of characteristic symptoms including anxiety and depression, social withdrawal, sleep disturbance and nightmares, physical complaints and mood swings with loss of drive. Commonly such survivors feel guilty that they have survived the trauma and others – such as their family, friends, and colleagues – did not."

A talented production team turns Valkeapää's vision into compelling screen reality. The movie boasts stark scope compositions of the cinematographer Pietari Peltola and expressive sets by Kaisa Mäkinen. Costumes designed by Sari Suominen reflect the double lives of the characters, and the makeups of Beata Rjabovska dramatize both the official and the S/M worlds. The evocative score is by Michal Nejtek, the oneiric sound world by Micke Nyström, and the complex montage by Mervi Junkkonen.


* Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach: [4]–[5] Menuet G-dur, Menuet g-Moll (BWV Anh. 114, 115). Die bekanntesten Stücke aus dem Notenbüchlein, die in unzähligen Instrumentalschulen und Heften mit Anfängerliteratur für praktisch jedes Instrument verbreitet sind; üblicherweise unter dem Namen Johann Sebastian Bachs. 1979 wies Hans-Joachim Schulze darauf hin, dass die beiden Stücke als Menuet 1 und Menuet 2 einer Cembalo-Suite von Christian Petzold entstammen. [Credited as: J. S. Bach: Minuet in G, BWV Suppl. 114].

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