The Man Behind Those Big Happy Boys

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Tom of Finland
Directed by Dome Karukoski

 

FINLAND’S official selection for Best Foreign Language film at the 90th Academy Awards in 2018 is the untold biography of one Touko Laaksonen (portrayed by Pekka Strang), known to the world, albeit only to the gay world, as “Tom of Finland.” Laaksonen’s erotic drawings shaped the fantasies of a generation of gay men who had lived in the closet for decades.

            Born in 1921, Laaksonen served in World War II as a lieutenant in the Finnish army. Finland was on the Axis side, fighting against the Allies, which included its old enemy Russia. When Russia invaded Finland, Laaksonen’s platoon was defending the country from Soviet air attack. In one of the most graphic scenes in the movie—startling for such a gentle man—he kills a young Russian parachutist who has just landed, taking his enemy totally by surprise and stabbing him to death. The Russian’s traumatized face is a sight that Laaksonen can never get out of his mind. But the soldier’s face is not all that he remembers; there was also that uniform… 

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Jack Nusan Porter is a Boston-based sociologist who writes widely on sexual politics and World War II.

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