- Colin Fraser
TOM OF FINLAND
THREE AND A HALF STARS Biopic about the Finn whose startling images helped define a generation of gay men.
Starring Pekka Strang and Lauri Tilkanen
PERIOD DRAMA, FOREIGN LANGUAGE #TOMOFFINLANDMOVIE
Even if you’re not a gay man of a certain age, it’s likely that you’re familiar with the artwork of Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom Of Finland. After nobly serving his country in WW2, he returns to the stifling environment of post-war Helsinki where homosexuals were routinely rounded up and persecuted. Although he found solace in the city’s sub-culture, he found peace in art, especially drawing, and particularly the homoerotic pictures for which he would become globally famous. Laaksonen resisted being idolised as any kind of ‘freedom fighter’ although, ironically, once his art became celebrated in the U.S., Tom became emblematic of gay liberation, and freedom itself.
This engaging feature details Laaksonen’s life from war time duty through many years in Helsinki, his ‘marriage’ to boyfriend Veli and run-ins with the law. As interesting as this is, a top-heavy narrative spends so much time in the 1950’s that it’s forced to make an unseemly run through the 70’s to the 90’s – a period when the cult of Tom, and therefore Laaksonen, was at his most interesting. It completely unbalances the entire film, leaving you hungry for more (and not in the good way). For instance, TOM OF FINLAND never adequately addresses quite why Tom Of Finland made such an impact in the U.S., spawned an entire generation of slavish leather men and became an international sensation. Was it just the nipples? We’ll never know.