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Sep 07 2019

TIFF: Thrilling Trio "Dogs Don't Wear Pants","Sea Fever",and "Resin"

Chris Feiltakes a quick look at three under-the-radar films at TIFF for genre fans and thrill seekers...

J-P Valkeapää'sDogs Don't Wear Pantsis a giddy shocker about grief and domination,an imposing Scandinavian delight that could make John Waters proud.The film follows Juha (Pekka Strang),a heart surgeon still grieving the death of his wife a decade prior as he raises his teenage daughter.Almost comically by chance,he stumbles into the dungeon of dominatrix Mona (a suberb Krista Kosonen) whose asphyxiation routines become an addiction for Juha that bring him in hallucinatory communion with his dead wife.The film shocks with its spiritual and biological intimacy (get ready for some seriously squirm-inducing gore),but moreso in its wicked sense of humor.We've got a weird one here,and it's kind of spectacular...

Tricking us into first thinking that the film sympathizes with Juha,Dogsultimately reveals itself as a witty and unforgiving exploration of the poor coping mechanisms of men.Though wisely not turning BDSM into the joke or delving into sex negativity,Juha takes his flirtation with sadomaschism past a safe limit as extremely as he avoids dealing with his lingering pain and maturing daughter.The film's body horror elements represent Juha's rotting sublimated grief,with Valkeapää impressively refined visual panache heightening the film's tension and its cheeky intimidation of the audience.

And it also becomes a kind of love story,or at least one of self-discovery for both Juha and Mona.Kosonen flourishes in the minutiae of her performance,her imposingly still gaze turning the smallest step out of what she expects of herself into a tidal wave of personal reexamination.But in its final act,Dogsbecomes a twisted subversion of romcom tropes that also pokes fun at male emotional incompetence.It's a morbidly funny and grotesque psychological exercise not for the squeamish,but also not without its share of humanism.B+

Hermione Corfield heads ocean horrorSea Feveras biology student Siobhán,an outcast among the crew of a ship she boards as a mandatory college requirement.But her science-led mindset becomes an asset when a lurking sea creature latches to the ship and infects it with a parasitic gelatinous blue goo.Also starring Connie Nielsen and Dougray Scott,the film is a satisfying genre entry in the vein ofAlienandThe Thingwhere its tension comes largely from paranoid groupthink.

The film however trips on its pacing,sometimes moving at a speed too brisk to allow its characters and relationships to develop deeper.Despite a real doozy of a terrifying midsection,the film oddly downshifts its energy as it comes to its close.Favoring a more introspective and enigmatic final conclusion,it nevertheless doesn't land as richly as it could if it had given room for its themes to breathe prior.But when this psuedo creature feature sings,it really sings.

Most exciting about the film is how it primes director Neasa Hardiman for even larger scale genre features - the film's strongest asset is her confident sense of tension and visual scale.Sea Feveris an oceanic brand of horror that has faded with our taste for cheese,but Hardiman approaches it in a way that revisits the subgenre unpretentious sturdiness.B-

In the Danish woods,the broken family ofResinstruggles to make a life off the grid while mired by undiagnosed psychosis.Preteen Liv (Vivelill Søgaard Holm) begins to develop a fascination for the outside world,despite the lies her father Jens (Peter Plauborg) has told her about their family circumstances as he instilled her with his paranoia.With her bedbound mother preparing for another coming child,Liv begins to question the fragile but idyllic world that has been crafted for her with the arrival of an unexpected visitor.

Resinis quite visually audacious,announcing an ambitious eye from director Daniel Joseph Borgman from its very first shot.The film's goriest and most shocking moment finds the film at both its most performatively challenging and its most mystifyingly beautiful,asking us to stare at something in awe that might send some fleeing from the theatre.But also it showcases the film's intentionally fleeting moments of humanity,centered at the beauty and brutality of the natural world.

Enamored with fluids and fungi but with an emotional distance from its wildest images,the film suffers the old style-over-substance pitfalls as its psychological examination of Jens is quite thinly drawn.Once the film's violence is enacted,the film tonally lands in a middle ground between folklore and procedural,pulling the dullest elements of both genres as Liv meets a nearby townswoman who quickly becomes her underdeveloped savior.While beautiful,sadlyResinis mostly superficial.C

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Reader Comments (1)

It's just so nice to see TIFF coverage that isn't around the same two dozen movies with Oscar buzz.Why go all the way to a film festival just to see a movie that's out in a week?!

Dogs Don't Wear Pants sounds wonderful.

September 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

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