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TOM OF FINLAND

★★★

THE MAN BEHIND THE ICON

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By Brent Davidson
11th October 2017
Biopics are all the rage right now (well, actually always). I am actually struggling to remember the last film I saw that wasn’t a biopic. With such an inundation, how are we expected to know whose life is more interesting than the next? No doubt that is the reason for the biopics becoming more and more niche as they celebrate the lives of less "mainstream" - but no less interesting - people.

Tom of Finland is iconic in the gay world. Drawings of hyper-masculinised men, in leather or uniforms engaging in sexual acts together changed the landscape for gay iconography; a lasting impression of this can still be seen today. But what do we know of the artist behind the drawings? Touko Laaksonen (Pekka Strang) was a solider in World War II, but peacetime Finland seemingly had no place for him or his proclivities. In secret, he began his art series and inadvertently starts a guerrilla moment in the still underground and illegal European gay scene. This art takes him to the more liberal America, although tensions at home and with his wife weigh heavily on his conscience.

‘Tom of Finland’ is actually being put to the Academy for consideration for Best Foreign Language Film, and I think it could be in with a real chance. While the subject matter is probably not the most widely appealing, the care and consideration that has been taken in the approach by director Dome Karukoski is definitely noticeable. What I appreciate most is seeing the history of the time when homosexuality was widely persecuted and the adversity that the community faced, and that in the face of such adversity (which is still true today) there was freedom and self-expression in art.

Everything about ‘Tom of Finland’ felt solid (no, that’s not an erection joke – minds out of the gutter please!). The acting was solid, the script was solid, and the direction was solid. Not remarkable or life-changing, but solid. I think it would be a struggle to walk out of seeing it and thinking that you’d seen a bad film; what you do see is a very careful and considered representation of an amazing life that you probably hadn’t considered existed behind somewhat sordid drawings.

‘Tom of Finland’ is actually being put to the Academy for consideration for Best Foreign Language Film.

I have a confession to make regarding biopics. I absolutely love when they show you original footage at the end of the film (a cliché device, I know) but it makes me so happy to see what the people were really like and how well the actors nailed their performances (or didn’t). To be honest, I would have loved to have seen a little bit more at the end of ‘Tom of Finland’, but that’s just me and my weird mind. For those who are interested, ‘Tom of Finland’ is a very well-crafted biopic that delivers on all its promises, and I would be very happy to see it take out an Oscar.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 12/10/2017
RUN TIME: 1h 54m
CAST: Pekka Strang
Lauri Tilkanen
Jakob Oftebro
Werner Daehn
Christian Sandström
Niklas Hogner
Jessica Grabowsky
Taisto Oksanen
Seumas F. Sargent
Martin Bahne
DIRECTOR: Dome Karukoski
WRITER: Aleksi Bardy
PRODUCERS: Miia Haavisto
Aleksi Bardy
Annika Sucksdorff
www.tomoffinland.com.au
tomoffinlandmovie
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