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The Organizer: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

In turn-of-the-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 (Marcelo 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. 

Film

As mentioned before the jump, The Organizer is the story of factory workers who operate a textile mill until an unfortunate accident maims one of the workers. They seek out the owner of the factory and demand better working conditions. Of course being unorganized and with low moral to boot their demands are met with condescending tones. The attitude is that if they don’t like the work then there’s the door. Seeing as the workers aren’t educated they really have no choice but to keep quiet and continue the back breaking work for 16 hours a day, sometimes even more.

Soon thereafter, Professor Sinigaglia (Mastroianni) arrives in Turin by train (the train that he hitched a ride on no less) and seeks to meet with the factory workers. World obviously traveled fast for it to have reached Sinigaglia in such a short amount of time. The Professor decides that there is cause for change and meets with the workers so that they can get a bit more organized when meeting with the higher-ups in order to change things around the factory.

It’s easier said that done as Sinigaglia sees that the majority of the workers are not educated or even well off financially to stage a strike. The owner of the factory will just hire scabs to take over the jobs of the workers if they don’t show up to work. It’s a struggle unto itself to agree on some of the most simplest points. Fear runs rampant in the slums, because if they don’t work, they don’t get paid, and if they don’t get paid, the families don’t eat.

This doesn’t sit well with some of the workers as they notice that for all of Sinigaglia’s verbose motivations go, he doesn’t have two nickels to rub together himself. He’s literally starving and has to wear the same clothing everyday. It’s as if he’s an educated kindred spirit.

What I really liked about The Organizer is that the topic of worker’s rights and fair wages is a topic that we often see in the news today. Granted, the film is almost 50 years old, and the setting is more than 100 years in the past – the topic at hand transcends time. You can flip on the television right now and see a story about workers being exploited – it’s a daily occurrence.

I also enjoyed the film in that the supporting cast was extremely colorful, and in some parts, hilarious. The Organizer had the time to inject humor here and there, which added to the overall storyline – it felt even more real by doing that. Criterion Collection have done a fine job in bringing this film to the Blu-ray format.

Video 

The Organizer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are normal for this format. This new high-definition digital 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 and PIxel Farm’s PFClean, while Image Systems’ DVNR was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.

Don’t let that last line of “grain reduction” fool you – there’s no such thing. The Organizer has been restored and the results are terrific. The film is in black and white and this new transfer is pretty breathtaking. Black levels remain deep and inky and without crush. Contrast levels balance out the overall image and I did not detect instances of boosting or strobing. Sharpness levels were also spot on. I also did not detect any intrusive DNR. Remember, when it comes to DNR, Criterion now how to use the tool without waxing up any given image. The Organizer has never looked better!

Audio

The original monaural 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 AudioCube’s integrated workstation.

And like the video specifications before the same goes for the audio. It’s a lossless mono-track, but depth and clarity are preserved. The one obvious thing you will notice, as was customary at the time, all of the actor’s voices were dubbed over in post-production. It’s not a big deal, because it was common practice to do so back in the day and especially with Italian films. Dialogue is clean and crisp, and the English subtitles come through brilliantly.

 Extras

The Organizer is one of those Criterion Collection Blu-rays that skimp on special features for whatever reason. They’re movie-only versions more or less. Besides the trailer this Blu-ray only contains an introduction, which is more of an interview with director Mario Monicelli from 2006. There’s an essay by film critic J. Hoberman, too.

  • Introduction by director Mario Monicelli from 206
  • Trailer
  • An essay by film critic J. Hoberman

 Summary

The Organizer is a hardcore film about workers, workers rights (or lack thereof) and it really doesn’t hold back. It wears it’s heart on its sleeve, but I can’t help to think how bad it used to be in certain parts of the world. Hell, this still goes on now, so have we really progressed any further 100 years later? The movie does not pull punches in its commentary, but does find time to insert a laugh here and there without coming off as slapsticky, or whatever. The technical specs are impressive, but the lack of special features is a disappointment. The Organizer is a pretty damned good film and I recommend it.

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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