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The Organizer – The Criterion Collection #610 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 29, 2012 by  



The Academy Award nominated “The Organizer” is one of Mario Monicelli’s more serious tragicomedy films and an intriguing juxtaposition when compared to Sergei Eisenstein’s “Strike”. But it’s the characters that shine in Monicelli’s engaging film.  Honest and full of humor, but yet tragic, “The Organizer” is one film that I highly recommend!

Image courtesy of © 1963 Lux Film – Vides Cinematografica. The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Organizer – The Criterion Collection #610 (I Compagni)

MOVIE RELEASE: 1963

DURATION: 130 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:66:1 Aspect Ratio, Spanish Stereo with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection

RELEASE DATE: April 24, 2012

Directed by Mario Monicelli

Story and Screenplay by Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Mario Monicelli

Produced by Franco Cristaldi

Music by Carlo Rustichelli

Cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno

Edited by Ruggero Mastroianni

Production Design by Mario Garbuglia

Set Decoration by Mario Garbuglia

Costume Design by Piero Tosi

Starring:

Marcello Mastroianni as Professor Sinigaglia

Renato Salvatori as Raoul

Gabriella Giorgelli as Adele

Folco Lulli as Pautasso

Bernard Blier as Martinetti

Raffaella Carra as Bianca

Francois Perier as Maestro Di Meo

Vittorio Sanipoli as Baudet

Mario Pisu as Manager

Kenneth Kove as Luigi

Annie Girardot as Niobe

Edda Ferronao as Maria

Anna Di Silvio as Gesummina

In turn-of-the-twentieth-century Turin, an accident in a textile factory incites workers to stage a walkout. But it’s not until they receive unexpected aid from a traveling professor (Marcello Mastroianni) that they find their voice, unite, and stand up for themselves. This historical drama by Mario Monicelli, brimming with humor and honesty, is a beautiful and moving ode to the power of the people, and features engaging, naturalistic performances; cinematography by the great Giuseppe Rotunno; and a multilayered, Oscar-nominated screenplay by Monicelli, Agenore Incrocci, and Furio Scarpelli.

When there is discussion of the oeuvre of an Italian filmmaker, it is easy to mention the names of legendary directors Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti and Mario Monicelli.

Mario Monicelli is known in Italy as one of the masters of Commedia all’Italiana (Comedy Italian style) and received Oscar nominations for his screenwriting for “The Organizer” (1963) and “Casanova ’70″ (1965).  As well as a Grand Prize of the Festival nomination at the Cannes Film Festival (“Guardie e ladri”, 1951) and Palme d’Or nominations for “For Love and Gold” (1966), “Vogliamo i colonnelli” (1973), “An Average Little Man” (1977) and “Le due vite di Mattia Pascal” (1985).

And while he is known outside of Italy for his comedy films such as “I soliti ignoti” (“Big Deal on Madonna Street”) and collaborating with talents such as Toto, Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni, Mastroianni also directed films that contained humor, but were tragic or futile.  One of the most important films Monicelli is known for is “La grande guerra” (“The Great War”, 1959), which he was nominated for an Academy Award and considered as his top masterpiece, and also directing “i compagni” (“The Organizer”, 1963) and “The Girl with the Pistol” (1968).  Both films, he would also receive Academy Award nominations.  Fitting films for a Marxist who accepted reality and its failures.

In his lifetime, he won 27 awards worldwide and won an Honorable Mention at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival and a Golden Lion for Career at the 1991 Venice Film Festival.  His final film was in 2006 in which the filmmaker directed “The Roses of the Desert” at the age of 91.

A man full who lived life to the fullest, unfortunately his final years with prostate cancer would become too much of a burden on the filmmaker that he committed suicide in 2010 at the age of 95.

While many people are familiar with Monicelli’s comedy films such as “Big Deal on Madonna Street”, which was released by the Criterion Collection back in 2001.  Criterion Collection will be releasing “i Compagni” (“The Organizer”), one of his more serious films ala “tragicomedy” for the first time on Blu-ray and will also be released on DVD in April 2012.

“The Organizer” is a film that is set in the turn-of-the-twentieth century Turin, Italy and at a textile factory where employees work 14-hour days and only a short time for a lunch break. The factory is where many elders, adults and even children work long hours.

The work is tiring, monotonous and the employees feel like they are like slaveworkers, with no appropriate breaks or even time long enough to eat their lunch.  But some try to keep optimistic as the job pays the bills and it also gives men a chance to have fun with the opposite sex.

One day, we see how many employees are tired and sleepy in their jobs (which can be very dangerous) and one man’s arm gets caught in a gear and thus having his arm amputated.  This a common situation at the textile factory and most of the time, all they can do is collect donations to help their family out while the person is out of work.

But how long can they keep doing this?  Someone needs to speak out to management about the working conditions but who is brave enough to do it?

As many of the employees start to form meetings and decide who will confront the management, by the time they do, they realize the management could care less about how they feel.  This is the working condition of other factories in the country and there are just as many unemployed people who would want the opportunity to find a job.  And as for the accidents, the management disregard it as nothing but bad luck for those individuals.

And the employees know they don’t have much of a voice against management and their wealthy owner.

That is until Professor Sinigaglia (played by Marcello Mastroianni) arrives into town.  An actual fugitive wanted by authorities, the Professor stumbles into the factory town by fate and realizes that these people are in despair.  So, what he does to help them is help them unite and fight fire with fire by preparing the employees for going on strike.  With no workers, management and their wealthy owner of the factory will surely feel the sting.  And the Professor tries to assist them with their demands of working 13 hour shifts (instead of 14) and longer breaks.  But will management accept?

As the Professor preaches to the workers that they need to prepare and to hold out as long as they can without any money, in order to have their demands met, but will the strike holdout have any effect on the management?  Or in the long run, will the strike hurt employees instead?

VIDEO:

“The Organizer” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  The whites and grays are well-contrast and black levels are very deep.  For the most part, I detected no film damage or any white specks, artifacts or banding issues.  The quality of the film is very good, doesn’t look soft and viewers should be pleased.

According to the Criterion Collection, this new high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a new 35 mm print.   Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Image Systems DVNR was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Organizer” is presented in LPCM 1.0 monaural Italian with optional English subtitles.  Dialogue is crystal clear and I detected no pops or hiss during my viewing of this film.

According to the Criterion Collection, the original stereo soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm optical soundtrack positive.  Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using Audio Cube’s integrated workstation.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Organizer – The Criterion Collection #610” on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • Mario Monicelli – (10:53) Featuring an interview with director Mario Monicelli recorded by the Criterion Collection in 2006.  Monicelli talks about Commedia all’Italiana and his career.
  • Theatrical trailer –Theatrical trailer for “The Organizer”.

EXTRAS:

“The Organizer – The Criterion Collection #610” comes with a 4-page (dual sided) fold-out leaflet, featuring the essay “Description of a Struggle” by J. Hoberman.

 

I simply adore the films by Mario Monicelli and when it comes to “The Organizer”, it’s rather fascinating because when it comes to films about workers going on strike, in many modern films, the outcome has always been in the employees favor and always positive outcome of how labor laws were changed.

But not so much the case in cinema past, especially films from Europe.

From Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 film “Stachka” (Strike) that showcased Eisenstein’s theme of collectivism versus individualism and showcasing how employees work themselves to death while owners and management are wealthy and could care less about their employees, Eisenstein’s film was grounded in Lenin belief that, “The strength of the working class is organization. Without organization of the masses, the proletarian is nothing. Organized it is everything. Being organized means unity of action, unity of practical activity”.

We fast forward to 1963 and similar to “Strike”, Monicelli’s film is set during the turn-of-the-twentieth century Turin.  As Eisenstein’s film preached Leninism, Monicelli believed in Marxism, which literally is a society in which burgeois or idealism do not exist.

In today’s world, specifically here in the West, the idea of long work hours, employment of children and literally no breaks can not be fathomed.  But yet this mentality still continues in other countries.  The reality for some countries today and how things were back then is that people accept their working condition and the fear of the harsh realities of not making any income is enough for one not to stand up and become defiant towards their management.  As a collective, not many are willing to do public protests, strike back in the media nor are they in a position financially to do so.

This is the reality today.

And back then, a lot of these individuals had no means to strike back, especially as a collective through media or political means.  In Eisenstein’s “Strike”, the reality of the employees and their organized strike was violence.  Violence towards the management, violence towards any other employees who were not able to hold out from the strike and were willing to return to their jobs.  And unfortunately, all that is left is tragedy.

Fortunately, Monicelli’s “The Organizer” is a film that showcases Monicelli’s belief that the reality is what it is, and the employees of Turin need to realize that going on strike may have hurt the management but in the long run, the reality is they have the means to outlast the workers, because they have the money to survive.

And another juxtaposition with Eisenstein’s “Strike” is that the people were ready to fight and die for what they believe in.  This was the Leninism perspective of working as a collective.  Monicelli’s “The Organizer” featured a collective that was held on a string, courtesy of Professor Sinigaglia, but it was evident that these workers have families, children that depend on them and while some maybe able to fight, the outcome is much more different, despite their being a tragedy.

Another key difference is the inclusion of comedy.  Eisenstein’s “Strike” was primarily focused on the strike itself and the differences of lifestyle with the factory workers and the wealthy and how the financial impact was hurting families.

In Monicelli’s “The Organizer”, times are tough but yet there is humor.  May it be a man who tries to flirt with a young woman, the stocky long-time employee Pautasso during his lunch break as he holds a huge circular bread to chow down on, or may it be a young boy who is not afraid to talk back to his elders (and also admonishing his younger brother who is attending school but would rather be an employee at the factory) or the local prostitute who tries to entice Professor Sinigaglia.

There are many of these moments that help the viewer get closer to various characters and see that despite how difficult the times are, they try to make the best of it.

So, for me, “The Organizer” has always been a fascinating film as it is an intriguing juxtaposition when compared to Eisenstein’s film.  Both have similarities but yet are very different.

Actor Marcelo Mastroianni is often seen playing a suave, charismatic character that always gets the lady and come to think of it, I suppose nothing has changed as the Professor also manages to find a woman but in different circumstances.   But Mastroianni does a good job playing Professor Sinigaglia and being the spoken leader for the workers.

But as Marcelo Mastroianni is the lead actor, what I enjoyed most of the film are the workers who attract the viewers through their feebleness, their humor or directive.  Renato Salvatori, Gabriella Gieorgelli, Folco Lullu, Bernard Blier, Raffaella Carra and many more, its the supporting cast of the film that makes “The Organizer” come to life.  The performances are honest and humorous but also feel realistic and natural,  and because of that, it does add to the engaging storyline.

As for the Blu-ray release, the video quality of “The Organizer” is fantastic and the interview with Mario Monicelli included on this Blu-ray was also enjoyable to watch, considering it was shot during a time when he was in good health and a few years before he died.  Although I wish there were more special features included, especially audio commentary, I’m still grateful that this interview with Monicelli was included on this Blu-ray release.

Overall, “The Organizer” has always been one of my favorite Monicelli films and I can only hope that with this release, it will pave the way for more Monicelli films such as “La Grande Guerra” (“The Great War”),  “The Girl With the Pistol” or “L’armata Brancaleone” (“For Love and Gold”) to receive a video release.

“The Organizer” is highly recommended!






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