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At the turn of the century, suffering Italian factory workers, with the help of a poverty-stricken professor, form a labor union to fight for better conditions.
For more about The Organizer and The Organizer Blu-ray release, see The Organizer Blu-ray Review
Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Renato Salvatori, Gabriella Giorgelli
Director: Mario Monicelli
» See full cast & crew
The Organizer Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, April 27, 2012
Nominated for Oscar Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen, Mario Monicelli's "I compagni" a.k.a "The Organizer" (1963) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include original U.S. theatrical trailer and an exclusive video interview with the Italian director. The disc also arrives with a leaflet featuring an essay by J.B. Hoberman. In Italian, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
The beginning of the century, Turin. The workers in a large textile factory decide to stage a protest and demand better working conditions. But they don't have a clear idea how to do it or an experienced leader who could present their demands to the owner of the factory. Nevertheless, they agree to stop working an hour early – and fail miserably when only a few of them do so. The bravest amongst them, a giant named Pautasso (Folco Lulli), is immediately suspended.
After a serious confrontation with a few of his comrades, the angry Pautasso meets Professor Sinigaglia (Marcello Mastrioanni), a dirty and unshaved man in his early 40s, who has just arrived in town with the freight train. Sinigaglia asks him how to find Maestro di Meo (François Périer), a school-teacher with whom he will teach the poor in Turin how to read. After Pautasso points Sinigaglia in the right direction, the two part ways.
On the following day the workers meet again to form a committee whose members will coordinate their actions and communicate with their bosses. Sinigaglia joins the discussions when one of the workers, Raoul (Renato Salvatori), openly states what most of his comrades already know – they don't have the right men to lead them. But Singaglia manages to inspire them to go on strike and present their demands to the owner of the factory.
This time the workers stay united and the factory is temporarily closed. The owner and his advisors attempt to trick them to go back to work, and almost succeed, but Sinigaglia once again helps the workers make the right decisions. After a series of fruitless negotiations, the owner of the factory makes a crucial move – he hires poor men and women from a nearby town who are ready to work under any conditions. But the news quickly reaches the strikers and they decide to prevent the new workers from taking over their jobs.
This beautiful commedia all'italiana from the great Mario Monicelli is likely to surprise a lot of viewers – it has a light and spirited side but also creates and sustains a dark and thoroughly depressing atmosphere. At first, it seems like the film sympathizes with the workers, but as the story progresses it becomes painfully obvious that it carefully and methodically exposes their weaknesses.
The film's greatest strength is its ability to consistently manipulate the viewer's expectations. Time and time again the comedy evolves into drama (and vice versa), and even the seemingly most transparent protagonists manage to surprise with unexpected character transformations. Also, even the smallest conflicts reveal something important about the socio-political climate in post-war Italy.
Monicelli, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 95, was an outspoken Marxist, but not an idealist. His films were almost always grounded in reality, critical rather than preachy, concerned with ordinary failures rather than extraordinary triumphs.
Unsurprisingly, The Organizer is not about the rise of the workers and the consequences of their actions; the focus of attention is on the daily struggles of these illiterate men and women to live their lives with some dignity.
The Organizer was lensed by acclaimed cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, who also collaborated with Monicelli on arguably his best film, La grande guerra a.k.a The Great War.
Note: In 1965, The Organizer was nominated for Oscar Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen (Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Mario Monicelli).
The Organizer Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Mario Monicelli's The Organizer arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the leaflet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a new 35mm 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.
Colorists: Russell Smith/Criterion, New York; Steve Calalang/Prime Focus, New York."
Aside from the slightly elevated contrast levels, which occasionally make the film look sharper than it should, the high-definition transfer is very good. Most close-ups convey very pleasing depth (see screencapture #1), while the wider shots boast excellent clarity (see screencapture #17). Whites and grays are well balanced and stable, but blacks have a tendency to look a bit too strong at times. Overall, however, the film looks stable and fluid. Grain has been retained. Also, there are no serious banding or aliasing issues to report in this review. Finally, the high-definition transfer is free of large cuts, damage marks, stains, and warps. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Organizer Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Italian LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack positive. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
The lossless audio track serves the film as best as it quite possibly could. The dialog is crisp, stable, clean, and easy to follow. Carlo Rustichelli's score, which has a small but important role, is also well balanced with it. Additionally, background hiss does not affect the clarity and the high-frequencies do not suffer from random distortions. The English translation is very good.
The Organizer Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Organizer Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Mario Monicelli's The Organizer is a true masterpiece, one of the very best Italian films from the '60s. But it is not as well known in North America as Big Deal on Madonna Street, which is why Criterion's Blu-ray release is so important - it will surely be appreciated by many serious film aficionados. I personally hope that sooner rather than later we will also see on Blu-ray La grande guerra. It is a film that was never released on DVD in English-speaking markets and one that clearly deserves to be in the Criterion Collection. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Organizer Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Blu-ray in April: Frampton, Ozu, Young, Ashby, Monicelli - January 13, 2012
The Criterion Collection has posted their full roster of Blu-ray releases for April 2012. Titles include the A Hollis Frampton Odyssey short film collection, Yasujiro Ozu's Late Spring, Robert M. Young's ¡Alambrista!, Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude, and Mario Monicelli's ...
The Organizer Blu-ray Screenshots
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