Zeitgeist Films // 1991 // 55 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // December 26th, 2010
A leather man's Bible and a gay boy's fantasy.
Tom of Finland is actually the "nom de porn" of Finnish graphic designer Touko Laaksonen who drew iconic hand sketches of gay men that came to revolutionize the GLBT movement. He lived from 1920 until 1991, and produced over 3,500 images of macho men with exaggerated muscles and impossibly large genitals doing all sorts of things to each other. His work came to define what leather men aspired to look like, and it was his imagination from which endless fantasies have sprung. He is probably the most recognized erotic artist in the world and Tom of Finland: Daddy and the Muscle Academy remains the best way to get to know the man behind the sexy drawings.
This DVD was originally released in 2003, and simply includes a 1991 documentary about Tom of Finland which is mainly comprised of his own words. He speaks in his native language, so almost the entire thing features the subtitled ramblings of a seventy year old man who saw World War II as well as the sexual revolution in America. Interspersed with the video of his gravel-voiced monologue are other people talking about him and some feeble attempts to recreate his art with live models. Nothing can compare to the real deal, and it is a relief when the drawings pop up again. The film is painfully artsy in a way that only filmmakers twenty years ago would think could work.
The transfer is a full frame affair presenting the original documentary that runs just under an hour. The look of it is decidedly art house circa 1991 with plenty of grain, and even film popping up now an then over the faces of interview subjects. Luckily, when the artist speaks he is set up on simple stage with soft lighting and a screen to show his drawings or photos. The soundtrack is a cloying stereo mix that showcases the dialogue but also lets the industrial sound effects run too hot in many cases. It is quite frankly a headache, but not much can be done twenty years later.
Extras include a nice sketch gallery which contains over a hundred images that you can click through to get a good look at the art. There is also a forty minute batch of extended scenes that prolong the questions and give more examination of the artist and his tale. They really help out here overall, and add a lot of value to the package.
The film is celebrating an important two decade anniversary, so I suppose it is well worth another look. I can't help but feel the subject deserves far better than this though. His work is so striking, and it did invent how men are seen by many guys. Tom of Finland is a true gay icon, and a man who became famous for celebrating his sexuality even when it was "twisted and illegal." He was the man who showed the world what gay men were seeing in each other, and he taught generations that they all shared the same fantasies. I can't name many artists who have had this kind of an impact on the world, especially when you consider it is almost all sexual in nature.
Guilty of not being what Tom deserves, but all we have of his original voice
before his passing.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 55 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interview Outtakes
* Sketch Gallery