Dome Karukoski’s film “Tom of Finland” is a workmanlike biography of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonone, better known as the movie title. Touko is credited with creating the artistic basis of the gay male leather community and of cis-male “muscle culture” within the gay community.
“Tom” (played by Pekka Strang) was born in 1920 and his first major life event was his experience in the Winter War between Russia and Finland (the 1998 film “Ambush”) where he served as an artillery or anti-aircraft officer and had a male relationship or two. This, of course, would feed into the past debate on gays in the military.
Once in civilian life he pursued his artistic career of erotic drawings, which could attract hostility. He gets arrested, supposedly for not paying a hotel bill in Germany, and later finds private parties subject to police raids. Finland is indeed one of the world’s most progressive countries today, but it was not so in the early 1950s. There is a scene where Tom meets his old friend from the Russo war, and the friend wants conversion therapy so that he can have children!
Toulo gradually established a business of publishing “muscle magazines” in the US through contacts in California. Explicit gay photos could not be published until a 1962 Supreme Court ruling that they were not obscene. I definitely remember the way muscle magazines provided a covert fantasy outlet for gay men back in the 1960s.
The film has a few nice shots of the lake areas in Finland; some of the southern California sequences seem to have been shot in Spain.
The film is in German and Finnish, and sometimes English. Despite the mysterious Asiatic origins of the language, the people look similar to those in the rest of Scandinavia.
Here are a couple of films for comparison: “Interior, Leather Bar” (2014, directed by James Franco) (legacy review); “Age of Consent” (2015, about “The Hoist”, review), and “Kink Crusaders” (2011, review).
This may be good place to mention a mysterious assassination in the town of Imatra, Finland, near the Russian border, in 2016, with a scandal that sounds like Russia’s “Pizzagate”. This incident could turn out to have more serious implications if Vladimir Putin has aspirations in the Baltics and later Finland in the future.
Finland map (Russo-Finnish war)
|Name:||“Tom of Finland”|
|Director, writer:||Dome Karuloski, Aleksi Bardy|
|When and how viewed:||Landmark West End, Washington DC, 2017/12/30|
(Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2017 at 12 noon)