DIRECTOR: Dome Karukoski
2017 | Finland |115m

The ’50s in America was an age of conformity and life in the closet. With laws against homosexuality, members of the LGBT community feared arrest as well as the loss of their jobs and families.

In spite of that — or perhaps because of that — while gay porn was still illegal, the fetishistic art of Tom of Finland exploded in popularity. Sales were booming, even though these works had to be bought surreptitiously under the counter. These pieces brought a queer fantasy world to life, which included muscle-bound bikers, cops, and leathermen whose endowments were too massive to be contained by tight uniforms.

The one place Touko finds refuge from his homophobic home town of Helsinki is with his art. Once his work is published in America, he begins signing it as “Tom of Finland.” Still closeted at home, he becomes an international cult figure. Eventually his hypersexual drawings become a symbol of freedom and expression for generations of gay men.

Now the Finnish illustrator (aka Touko Laaksonen) is the subject of a beautifully filmed biopic, covering major events in his life including his wartime combat, his brushes with the police for the crime of cruising, his love affair with a young male dancer, and his sudden rise to fame for his homoerotic art.

Spanning over five decades, Pekka Strang leaves a lasting impression as the artist surprised by the success of his secret illustrations. From a World War II soldier to an icon of the leather scene, Tom of Finland is an uplifting story of a courageous man standing at the forefront of the emerging gay revolution.

Harris Theater
October 13, 2017

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