I Wanna Be Your Dog Another Frolic with J-P Valkeapää’s Dogs Don’t Wear Pants

2020 is undisputedly a year defined by the COVID-19 pandemic. We were witness to global economic and social turmoil, over 160 million confirmed cases and over 3 million deaths. One of the worst and largest pandemic in all of human history resulting in staggering and deeply, deeply tragic statistics.

With worldwide lockdowns, mass cancellations and postponements of events, we as a species had to learn how to adapt and live with this fatal virus until vaccines were created and our livelihoods could be rebuilt. Along the way many areas, businesses and industries were hit hard by this pandemic and the brief collapse of society.

The film industry, an industry that is near and dear to all our hearts took a hit harder than most. A plethora of film productions and theatrical releases had either seized, were delayed or had been cancelled entirely. Specifically on the theatrical side of the industry – in the UK the vast majority of cinemas across all four countries, be them part of a chain or independent, saw closures of over 160 days before it was considered safe to reopen for the public.

Like us humans learning how to adapt and live with virus, so did the film industry. Everything entirely shifted online. Both major and smaller scale films premiered and saw their release on the multitude of streaming platforms available across the globe. However a select handful of films and their gluttonous studios continued to delay their theatrical release for the eventual reopening of cinemas, leaving millions of punters disappointed [Coughs] Universal Pictures; No Time to Die [Coughs].

Originally slated for a March 2020 UK release, one film I was personally miffed about not being able to see in a cinema scenario for the first time was J-P Valkeapää‘s erotic black comedy, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants. Mercifully new kids on the block, Anti-Worlds acquired the rights to the Finnish film making it available to stream on Curzon Home Cinema, iTunes, Prime Video, Google Play and YouTube immediately after its theatrical life expectancy abruptly flatlined.

Starring Pekka Strang, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants follows the life of a successful neurosurgeon, who’s wife tragically drowned seven years prior. Widowed, emotionally bankrupt and estranged from his daughter Elli (Ilona Huhta), Juha encounters Mona (Krista Kosonen), a dominatrix who brings him closer to feeling something again through an array of wicked and dangerous titillating roleplaying.

J-P‘s vibrant and glowing neon-drenched sex-positive film is a labyrinth of love, loss and the sweet pain of being told through a darkly humorous but humanistic lens. The latex-heavy, hardcore BDSM presentation is a facade for a much more pleasant and tender subject matter. So pleasant in fact, the Finnish film ended up being the best film I saw throughout all of 2020. It stifled everything else I saw that year. It came to me during a time in my life where I had lost all hope. The weight of the ongoing pandemic was devastatingly crushing. Yet the racy and provocative feature provided escapism and hope through its perverse, unorthodox compassionate subtext. Based exclusively on the calibre of emotion it able to emit from me as well as the masterfulness of blending benevolence and playful malevolence, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants will always hold a special place in my heart.

Coincidentally enough, the Finnish multigenre was also the first film I “officially” reviewed on the World Wide Web. Having wrote only a handful of in-depth reviews over at Letterboxd, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants marked as the first film I covered when I began writing for The People’s Movies. Further adding huge sentimental value to my admiration for it.

When UK specialist distributor Anti-Worlds unveiled that they were to release a Blu-ray of Dogs Don’t Wear Pants, I was naturally elated! I had been (im)patiently waiting for a home release of the film after my first compliant serving with it. At that point, you could only rent or buy a digital copy of the film and frankly it just isn’t the same. Having the real deal as a physical thing/product/format to hold is just way more satisfying.

Being a still up-and-coming distribution company who’s M.O. is “celebrating unique, provocative and challenging cinema”, the smutty, sadomasochistic flick with paramount spirit really could not be in better hands than with Anti-Worlds.

From a technical standpoint as the film is still relatively fresh, there hasn’t been a great deal altered to the look or sound of J-P‘s third outing as a feature-length writer and director. It is mostly untouched. Limited to just 3,000 copies, Anti-Worlds‘ Blu-ray release is presented in high definition with the original 5.1 surround sound audio. But most importantly is seven words that any film spectator and collecting librarian yearns to see – “classified as fully uncut by the BBFC”.

Where the special edition has its most dominating stranglehold on its willing, submissive participants is in its bonus features.

Featuring an English language audio commentary-track with writer-director J-P Valkeapää plus a weighty Q&A interview, many topics are covered to get a clearer picture of his vision for Dogs Don’t Wear Pants. J-P unreservedly talks about his inspirations for the film, how the script came to life and required a few changes along the way, the themes and philosophy behind the story and also how he battled tirelessly in finding a suitable balance between the films darker material and contrasting humour. A sizeable amount of the Q&A sees J-P talking about his stylistic choices for the film; the aesthetic e.g. certain types of naturally outsourced lighting, using a particular anamorphic lens etc. An informative and illuminating insight into a visually breathtaking, striking piece of cinema.

Also included are two interviews with lead actors Pekka Strang and Krista Kosonen. In the newly filmed interviews, Strang and Kosonen respectively talk in-depth about what drew them to the venturesome project.

In the interview with Kosonen, she speaks avidly about her adulation for J-P and his previous work, as well as her approach to portraying the role of the underground sex working dominatrix, Mona. Accompanied by J-P and Strang, Kosonen attended “eye-opening” legitimate BDSM sessions hosted by an actual dominatrix in Finland – as spectators to properly understand the energy within that intimate space, to be able to authentically portray it in the film.

Strang too candidly goes into detail on how prior work involving similar positive sex-driven themes (Tom of Finland) helped him slip into the licentious role with ease, not feeling embarrassed to put himself in embarrassing situations. On the flip side of that, Strang talks in-depth on the multidimensional, complex grief-ridden Juha and how he is a “serious” neurosurgeon who is on a landslide of fascination and enticement. Likewise to Kosonen, Strang was given the opportunity to visit real-life heart operations to give him a greater context of the diligence of neurosurgery to believably play his part.

A behind-the-scenes gallery of stills and storyboard-to-screen comparisons of the entirety of Dogs Don’t Wear Pants offer up even more treasure within this Blu-ray release. The original storyboards showcase what writer-director J-P Valkeapää envisaged for his elokuva (“film” in Finnish) and how he and the rest of the cast and crew faultlessly brought the concept to life through his direction and cinematographer’s Pietari Peltola photographic focus.

An audio clip of J-P being interviewed about his feature is additionally included – originally recorded in February 2020 at film critic Mark Kermode’s MK3D event at BFI’s Southbank in London. The excerpt largely reiterates what is covered and discussed in the audio commentary-track and newly recorded Q&A interview, but is still an educating and riveting listen. There is no shortage of content whatsoever.

Completing the package is a 24-page booklet containing film credits, as well as essays on the heart-warming Finnish film by film fanatics and world-class critics, Anna Bogutskaya (@annabdemented) and Evrim Ersoy (@EvrimErsoy).

Anti-Worlds’ revision for the hardcore, X-rated Finnish erotica/black comedy/drama/romcom hybrid is for hardcore fans of the film and hardcore physical media film collectors and enthusiasts alike. Ordinary, prudish folk will turn their noses up at this feature without knowing the true warmth it is capable of radiating. If you’re more of a debaucher, you may still feel risqué buying Dogs Don’t Wear Pants but I assure you, it is ultimately the thrill seek you have been looking for.

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants  Limited Collectors Edition is available  to Pre-Order now.