Award-winning filmmaker Dome Karukoski brings to screen the life and work of one of the most influential and celebrated figures of 20th century LGBTQ life. Known to the world as Tom of Finland, artist Touko Laaksonen shaped the fantasies of a generation of gay men with his proudly erotic and taboo-shattering drawings of testosterone filled, muscle-bound men. But who was the man behind the leather? Find out in this documented piece of queer history.

Dome Karukoski’s stirring biopic follows his life from the trenches of WWII and repressive Finnish society of the 1950s through his struggle to get his work published in California, where he and his art were finally embraced amid the sexual revolution of the 1970s. Tom’s story is one of love, courage and perseverance, mirroring the gay liberation movement for which his leather-clad studs served as a defiant emblem.

Director Karukoski stated, “This is the story of a man ahead of his time, who bravely fought for his right to be who he was – a gay man with gay fantasies. I hope the film shows how one person can create change in the world, even with something as simple as an artist’s tools. It is a long-overdue portrait of a celebrated artist, but it is also at its heart, a love story. Touko Laaksonen lived a truly incredible life that I am honoured to share with the world.”

Tom of Finland, a moniker of Touko Laaksonen, was a Finnish illustrator best known for his distinctively stylized homoerotic drawings. An influential aesthetic force in late 20th-century gay culture, his illustrations were rendered in grey-scale graphite, and often featured uniformed men with exaggerated musculature and genitalia either performing or implying sexual activities. “I almost never draw a completely naked man,” he once explained. “To me, a fully dressed man is more erotic than a naked one. A naked man is, of course, beautiful, but dress him in black leather or a uniform—ah, then is more than beautiful, he is sexy!” Both the content and militaristic style of his work was informed by the artist’s time spent serving in the Finnish armed forces, and he originally began creating his erotic drawings for his own entertainment.

“The critical reception of his work has shifted in tandem with changing political landscapes—prior to the 1970s, Laaksonen’s art was either censored or rejected by mainstream culture, whereas after the end of the 20th century, his illustrations have been championed by gay activists and fine arts institutions alike. In 2013, the exhibition “Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland” held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles offered a comprehensive survey of his work, and Finish national stamps featuring Laaksonen’s drawings were released in 2014. Born on May 8, 1920 in Kaarina, Finland, the artist died in Helskinki, Finland on November 7, 1991.”

The film previously played Toronto’s Inside Out LGBT Film Festival, and now there’s another opportunity to see this film, which was Finland’s consideration for Best Foreign Language Film  entry for the Oscars, at Imagine Carlton Cinemas (20 Carlton Street) in Toronto, with a special Toronto PWA fundraiser screening on opening night, February 23rd, 2018 with prizes for best Tom lookalike! The film continues until March 1, 2018.

The movie is also available for purchase at Kino Lorber.

Watch The Trailer

RUNNING TIME: 116 mins
2017 – Finland / Sweden / Denmark / Germany
Website

 

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.