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Canada, 1999 (MIFF 2000, Documentaries)

Director: Christine Richey

Sadomasochism has had a long, rich and quite painful history. Guiding viewers, and voyeurs, on a tour through this leather clad underworld, TOPS and Bottoms manages to link the brutality of the Marquis de Sade and the Inquisition to the flogging brothels of the Victorian era and the masochistic model of capitalist society. Is it a healing ritual? A destructive force? Is it about sex or power? This is not a sensationalist documentary. Director Christine Richey has gone to great lengths to document the history and explore the psychology behind the practitioners, champions and experts of S/M. Furthermore, she gained access to the home of a couple whose lives are dedicated to a master/slave relationship and publishing Boudoir Noir, a magazine for afficionados. Dr. Mary Dante gave up her hospital posting to live as her husband's slave. His intellectual superior, she doesn't feel threatened by the 14 prior slaves he 'trained' or his latest acquisition' Mercedes', a 26-year-old student bound to him by a six month contract. With this contemporary case study sitting alongside exploration of practices in the Middle Ages and the hierarchy of the bedroom and boardroom, TOPS and Bottoms posits the idea that human beings are only truly secure with total submission or ruthless domination.

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