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Blu-ray Review: THE ORGANIZER [The Criterion Collection]

Joshua Brunsting

April 30th, 2012

Throughout the history of film, the medium has not only been used to discuss the times from which it is created, as well as transcending time, having the ability to be even more pertinent and important as the years pass.  And then, somewhere in the middle, lies a film like THE ORGANIZER.  A film that is as visually stunning as one would imagine, with a narrative the is both ripped from history made and history currently being made, yet far less intellectually profound than a film like this would be imagined to be.

Helmed by BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET director Mario Monicelli, THE ORGANIZER is an effective, if unbearably long story looking into the lives of textile laborers in Turin, Italy, at the turn of the 20th Century.  When a traveling professor, played by the amazing and always charming Marcello Mastroianni, arrives in town, the group finally finds a being to rally around with, following an accident that has the group of workers reeling. Blending a rather cartoonish sense of humor from its engaging Oscar nominated script and a handful of top notch performances, the film doesn't say much about the experience of these workers, but what it does say is engaging and beautifully crafted.

The biggest star here is Monicelli, bar none. The film is visually inspired, giving us an intimate look into this impoverished group of laborers, without feeling as though we should truly pity these people. They each seem to have a sense of humor about their position in life, with Monicelli directing a handful of great thespians giving some of the most naturalistic performances of their careers.  The camera allows the narrative to breath, and the gorgeous black and white photography Giuseppe Rotunno gives the film a fantastic sense of realism.

Mastroianni is fantastic here, playing the role of Professor Sinigaglia, the roaming teacher who comes into these worker’s lives and inspires them, giving the one voice, one person, one entity to rally around.  Mastroianni gives the character a sense of fire behind his eyes when giving his emotionally charged speeches, but a great deal of subtlety in the between moments, which in turn adds a depth to the character that really makes the film engaging. When he appears, the workers he preaches to become galvanized behind him and his words. Giving them a singular voice to follow, Mastroianni's performance is absolutely beautiful. The supporting cast is equally as good, lead by Renato Salvatori, Annie Girardot, and Folco Lulli, all giving stand up performances as part of the backing ensemble.

Perfectly released on home video following the rise of the Occupy movement, THE ORGANIZER is a moving look into the ability for humans to rally together, with the hope of bringing change to their economic situation.  Singularly following this group of workers and their attempt to change their deplorable work conditions at a local textile mill, the film is an affecting tale of human strength and just what type of change can come if a group of people are able to rally around one singular voice.

That said, the film doesn’t say much outside of what its characters preach.  Ostensibly nothing more than a series of speeches intertwined by a rather blunt narrative, the film does lack an intellectual subtlety that could have made this piece something far more intriguing to dig into.  The idea of blending the speeches with some rather entertaining comedy, THE ORGANIZER doesn't have much to say outside of what  It also happens to be one of Criterion’s odder releases.

Technically, this release is killer.  The transfer is breathtaking, with the black and white photography really coming to life thanks to this brand new restoration. Carlo Rustichelli’s music is affecting coming through your TV’s speakers, and overall, there isn’t much that one could find wrong aesthetically with the release, save for a rather lackluster insert inside of what is an absolutely gorgeous package. However, with only a trailer and an intro by the director, the release itself is one of the least rewarding of Criterion’s recent bare bones releases.  The film itself is a middling piece of work saved by great performances and a visually strong director, but as a release, this is best saved for Criterion completists or fans of ‘60s Italian cinema.

The release itself is fine, with one of Criterion's patented masterpiece transfers, but without any great supplements, the release just doesn't ooze a sense of being a "must own" disc, particularly when released during the same calendar week as their brilliant collection of work from Hollis Frampton, a set that is bursting at the seams with both content and context.  Buy it if only to see just how damn good Criterion can make any film look.  This thing is definitely gorgeous, if not much else.

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