‘Tom of Finland’ will celebrate work of controversial artist

An illustration from the artist Tom of Finland, whose life and work is the subject of a new Finnish film.
(Tom of Finland)

Finland’s Helsinki-filmi production company said it will be making the authorized movie about the life and work of Tom of Finland, the Finnish artist famous for his groundbreaking erotic images of gay men.

The company said at the Toronto International Film Festival that it has hired director Dome Karukoski (“Lapland Odyssey,” “Forbidden Fruit”), also from Finland, to helm the project.

Born Touko Laaksonen in 1920, Tom of Finland (who died in 1991) produced thousands of illustrations, many composed of muscle-bound men in various states of undress, including complete nudity.

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He skirted censorship laws in the 1950s and 1960s by placing his subjects in physical fitness poses but later emphasized more overtly sexual settings. He also lent his name to a clothing line.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have several Tom of Finland works in their permanent collection, and the artist’s illustrations have been published in several books by the publisher Taschen, including the 666-page “Tom of Finland XXL.”

Helsinki-filmi said the production is the first such feature authorized by the Tom of Finland Foundation. He was the subject of the 1991 documentary “Daddy and the Muscle Academy,” and the 1988 documentary short “Boots, Biceps and Bulges: The Life & Works of Tom of Finland.”

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“We’re very pleased to be able to bring the first biopic of Tom of Finland to the screen”, Aleksi Bardy, producer and partner at Helsinki-filmi, said in a statement. “It’s impossible to overstate the impact Tom’s work has had on the image and self-image of gay men all over the world. He created the archetypes that now form an integral part of the iconography of popular culture, both gay and straight.”

Added Durk Dehner, the president and co-founder of Los Angeles’ Tom of Finland Foundation: “Helsinki-filmi share our vision of how to bring Tom’s life and work to the screen. We are very happy to work with them on the first and only authorized portrayal of this groundbreaking artist.”


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