Tom of Finland
Jakob Oftebro, Werner Daehn, Pekka Strang
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… a very watchable, solid, frequently entertaining and sometimes touching true story.
Tom of Finland was the nom-de-plume of Touko Laakonsen (Pekka Strang), whose fetishistic drawings of muscular men in bikie regalia were massively popular in themselves. They also inspired a lot of leather-bound gay fashion. But that came relatively late in Laakonsen’s life, and this filmic portrait begins with him as a young soldier in World War Two. He fatally stabs a Russian parachutist, is understandably traumatised by the memory – and apparently bases Kaki (his fictional leather man) on the victim.
This initial section, being set in an ultra-closeted Finland, is bleak, noirish and rendered atmospheric by a mixture of clarity and shadows. There’s a lot of ritualistic cigarette smoking, and stilted or furtive assignations in parks. Not to mention some vicious attacks by homophobic cops. At this point, Touko tends to keep his drawings to himself, knowing that “It would be easier to publish in the Vatican”.
There’s a lot of ground to cover here, literally, with Touko soon moving to Berlin, and eventually to a euphorically liberated California. The structure is fairly linear and the tone pretty restrained, but the film is no weaker for that. One of its best features is the way music is used to evoke the various eras: string and piano pieces for the Forties, rock’n’roll and crooning for the Fifties, disco for the later years…
Tom Of Finland is a bit overlong, and some of the characters don’t age visibly as much as they should in its time frame. But, these minor quibbles aside, it’s a very watchable, solid, frequently entertaining and sometimes touching true story.