For a film about sadomasochism, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (Koirat eivät käytä housuja) isn’t really about sex. That isn’t to say the Finnish director J-P Valkeapää ignores the eroticism of his subject matter. But this isn’t a love story so much as it’s one about pain, control, and release. It seeks to tap into a primal element of our animal nature from its opening shot of a fish sucking air in the hull of a boat. Before the opening credits even begin, Valkeapää’s protagonist will liken himself as much to that fish as he will to a canine. Mammalian or piscine, our basic need for life is counteracted only by the unnatural impulse to reject it, to wade in a stupor like a melancholic zombie.
If to dance is to live, as equated in the famous exchange from The Red Shoes, then to live is to affirm one’s existence. The political tenets underlying this postulation frequently manifest in the gendered, often queer, connotation of dance as a vocation and an interpersonal exchange between partners. So prevalent is this subtext in cinema that by the time Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot leapt onto screens, the typical entry within the subgenre diluted the political provocation performance posed toward rigid hegemonic attitudes in favor of individualistic underdog stories. And Then We Danced attempts to rectify this depoliticization by directly addressing a generation emerging from a complex national history, one which has greeted this often tender love story with controversy and outright hostility in its own nation.
There has never been a greater time to be a cinephile. That’s certainly my belief in this peculiar era we’re living in. When compiling a list for the best films of the 2010s, the titles submitted by my colleagues only served to underscore the prevalence of global cinema within the cultural consciousness. We began this list before Bong Joon-ho made history by sweeping the Oscars, yet the Parasite phenomenon can be seen as a fitting end to a decade which saw a plethora of filmmakers contend with nationalist rhetoric, environmental crises, and a growing disillusionment with capitalism. Many of these films found exposure through unconventional means of distribution, with one particular title controversially upending what can even be properly called a film in the age of binge-watching. Regardless of how these works have been seen, all of them reinforce the vitality of an evolving medium whose malleability is a necessity in an increasingly fractured global society. The theaters may no longer be the dominant institutions they once were, but the cinema can still help us dream, especially now when we need to most.
Click below to read more of the titles listed as the Best of the 2010s.
Kevin Smith. What can you say about him that has not already been said? If you are a Generation X-er, your answer would probably be “not much.” His appeal may be limited to a certain niche that were in their early to mid 20s when he first entered the Indie film scene with his surprise smash hit, Clerks, but it’s a niche which has been nothing if not vociferously passionate. His fans have followed his various forays in genre filmmaking, some more successful than others, yet it is arguably the cinematic universe he created known as the View Askewniverse for which he is most renowned.