Award-winning filmmaker Dome Karukoski brings to screen the life and work of artist Touko Valio Laaksonen (aka Tom of Finland), one of the most influential and celebrated figures of twentieth century gay culture.
Tom of Finland is one of the gay world's few authentic icons. His drawings have had an enormous influence on gay identity. Tom's ultimate leather men are known and seen everywhere. They are... See full summary »
Tom of Finland,
Robert Henry Mizer,
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Spring. Yorkshire. Young farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.
Touko Laaksonen, a decorated officer, returns home after a harrowing and heroic experience serving his country in World War II, but life in Finland during peacetime proves equally distressing. He finds peace-time Helsinki rampant with persecution of the homosexual men around him, even being pressured to marry women and have children. Touko finds refuge in his liberating art, specializing in homoerotic drawings of muscular men, free of inhibitions. His work - made famous by his signature 'Tom of Finland' - became the emblem of a generation of men and fanned the flames of a gay revolution.Written by
Tom of Finland has his own autobiographical movie now, done by Finns themselves. Appropriate because he is one of them and spent his whole life living among them. Which was brave, because in his time, being found out as homosexual could meant effectively the end of the life as one knew it, including losing your life. Just like, say, paedophiles or terrorists today.
I am a bit surprised if you don't know the great late artist's name and/or haven't seen any of his work. Like, for example, Walt Disney or Herluf Bidstrup, he surely is one of the greatest artists of modern time, instantly recognizable and unforgettable for its style and soul.
I would say his drawings are like nothing else out there, although I actually don't know much about gay culture and its antics. But this is art at its purest and most powerful. It's unique, it makes you feel something and it talks to you, regardless of your sexual orientation and/or attitude towards homosexuality. Lust is universal.
The story is nothing original, the classic "rags to riches" success story blueprints made popular by Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" (1987) that the other movie makers still eagerly copy.
Which means that you can often guess where it's going and because of that, there's a risk of reaching the saturation point before the end, probably in the last third.
I enjoyed the ride in full, actually, but the risk is real. Maybe it would help that every movie using this formula wouldn't be around two hours long? It's not like it's gonna become magically fresher in long movies after 30 years.
But the formulaic story and the typical low-key "I am a Finnish movie" look are not what make "Tom of Finland" shine.
But what it lacks in inventive storytelling or visual flashiness, it more than makes up in heart and conviction. It's not just an re-enactment of a famous person's life, you can literally feel the lust that drove him, and men like him, on screen.
This is well conveyed by actors, especially Pekka Strang who seems to be straight in real life but does not shiver back from releasing his inner man-eater in hope for making everything come alive on screen.
This is not a comical role, and he really dives into the role so you can really buy him as the great artist. All this longing, need to break free from social chains, and satisfaction with getting what he wants seem authentic and real when they show on his face on screen.
Watching the gay scene, forced into hiding and later coming out in the open, is interesting as well. Creeping around, always giving out and trying to read subtle signs from other men, and desperation in the danger of being found out. The director has done a great job bringing this alive, as history lesson which is also entertaining to watch.
This is Finland's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film competition at 2018 Academy Awards. I think it's not "serious" enough to have a realistic chance of winning... but who knows. Dome Karukovski is quite a big deal among modern Finnish movie directors, says IMDb.
So... "Tom of Finland": an artist and now a movie even straight people can like! I know I do.
If you want recent similar movie suggestions, check out 2013's "Behind the Candelabra" starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, it's great!
If I have any gay or bi readers, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the movie.
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