The Organizer (1963) Poster


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A wonderful film--and Marcello as you've never seen him!
john_timo29 March 2005
This is one of those great foreign films from the 60's. The plot synopsis may make it sound dismal, but on the contrary it is full of heart and humor. These are real people, with all their quirks and stupidities and rich relationships with one another. There is an accurate, full portrayal of the human condition, and an acceptance of what that means, that is rare to non-existent in movies today.

If you like films that put you into another world for a couple of hours, you've got to see this. The late 19th century Northern Italy textile factory is amazingly realized. The black & white cinematography is gorgeous, and the acting is convincing all around.

Mastroianni is a personal favorite, and this is a terrific role for him: very unlike his usual suave, modern, urban characters.

This film is a masterpiece. It's a shame it is not out on DVD.
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The best film Marcello Mastroianni ever made
ellen-3525 January 2004
I saw this in theatrical release 40 years ago, and have been longing to see it again. It has long been on my top 10, no, my top "1" list. In my opinion it is Mastroianni's best film, and the most memorable labor film I can recall seeing. MAK-4's comment that this is the movie "Matewan", "Molly Maguires" and "Germinal" tried to be, really nailed it. However, although my 40-year-old impressions are indelible, they are no longer detailed. What a tragedy that "Divorce Italian Style" is available on DVD, and "The Organizer" is not available at all.
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Underrated Italian Masterpiece
KasparM3 January 2013
The difference between this film and a lot of other strike/union related films, is that it has a sense of humor and is not taken with its own self importance. As a matter a fact, the film is quite measured and cautious in its outlook. There are no heroics here, everybody is a full fledged human being with his/her weaknesses and strengths. Mastroianni is particularly wonderful here in a very nuanced performance, where he goes from nebbish professor to inspirational and powerful leader in matters of seconds. The script is very strong and Rotunno's cinematography is excellent. Monicelli injects the film with so many details that hit their mark, that he has gone from a very good director to a great one in my estimation. The early scenes at the factory are truly remarkable in a uniquely cinematic way. They hardly contain any dialogue and put you in the workers place in a remarkably efficient way.

Highly recommended.
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"Biography" of an academic turned labour organiser
johnwood-227 December 2000
Along with the U.S. "Salt of the Earth" this is one of the few films from nonsocialist/communist countries to take a deep and sympathetic look at class struggle and the conditions that led to the formation and defence of labour unions. It's an emotionally excruciating film thanks to Mastroianni's greatest performances among so many great performances, and the superb screenwriting and direction.
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Absorbing, one of Mastroianni's best performances.
merrywood26 December 1998
I Compagni is memorable. When we consider why films move us, affect our lives, indeed, create us to some extent, we think of films such as this. This is not just an artistic triumph for all its filmmakers, but also a moving document of humanity. We take measure of Mastroianni not by his range of performance but by his deep involvement. Like France's Charles Aznavour has his heart in his song, Marcello Mastroianni is fully engaged in his performance. As Professor Sinigaglia in I Compagni, Mastroianni is at his best form. The source of his intensity is not his surface emotion, but the depths of his soul.
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A near masterpiece from Monicelli features Mastroianni at his best in this period labor drama.
MAK-426 February 1999
Mario Monicelli's wonderfully full portrait of an early workers' strike at a Turino textile factory (circa 1890) is not only a great period drama, but a warm, if ultimately tragic human comedy in the great Italian tradition. Great performances all around (Mastroianni, Giradot, and a young River Phoenix look-a-like named Franco Ciolli, whatever became of him?) help make this labor drama the movie MATEWAN, MOLLY MAGUIRES and GERMINAL all tried to be.
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A Film For Today
dscott222 July 2002
Today, as one "great" corporation after another collapses under the weight of its own deceit, I Compagni should be seen by everyone. For at least 20 years, we have been told that unions and regulations are obsolete hindrances to the miracle of The Marketplace. Now that even Alan Greenspan, an enormously powerful acolyte of Ayn Rand and her adolescent mirror-philosophy to Marxism, has testified that "I was wrong." As he admitted that he now sees that unregulated capitalism will inevitably fall under the spell of selfish, unfeeling greed, we find ourselves almost back at the beginning of FDR's reforms. The "American Dream" didn't just happen; it wasn't automatically granted by benevolent businessmen. It was fought for, and won despite enormous obstacles. It is true that the final scene of this film is heartbreaking. But it should not be seen as depressing. A battle has been lost. But the war was eventually won. Many of those gains have been recently tossed aside out of historical ignorance and childish acceptance of corporate propaganda. But if the American people will act and vote intelligently, workers and capitalists alike will regain a humane balance.
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One of the greatest films about the labor movement
hendersonhall18 May 2009
Earnest, as 1 commentator said? Yes. Depressing, as the same commentator said? No, no, no. It's realistic, showing what was and too often is, not upbeat with false hopes for the future, except that the perseverance of the title character is upbeat. The Organizer is one of the best, perhaps the best, movie about union organizing that I can recall. As is often the case, Mastroianni's acting is different from any other role he has played. The same is true of Salvatori and Girardot. The movie itself is far superior to director Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street, which doesn't really hold up today. I saw The Organizer when it first came out in the US and later on VHS. A DVD is long overdue.
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A wonderful film about not giving up on solidarity
daviditam24 June 2007
Titled "I Compagni" (The Comrades), 1964 American release of this controversial Italian film was as The Organizer, no doubt to avoid an anti-Communist reviewer backlash. While Marcello Mastroianni's Professor Sinigaglia endures some embarrassing indignities, he overcomes them. Working-girl refugee Niobe (wonderfully portrayed by Annie Girardot) helps him both emotionally and nutritionally. This is a wonderful film about not giving up on solidarity. I hold it in higher esteem than Norma Rae, one of the very few other films about working people organizing. The film suffers from being viewed as a not-so-funny comedy because of its over-individualized title. For many years, it was difficult to get a print for showing. Bosley Crowther favorably reviewed it for New York Times 7 May 1964. There is a review in Film Quarterly, Autumn 1964, which I have not seen.
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Are the jokes lost in the subtitles, or what?
Arca19433 January 2005
Most comments on this movie are positive - and quite rightly so. Except for someone who said I Compagni was "depressing". Well, of course it's depressing : it's an Italian comedy ! Why do you think Monicelli and writers Age-Scarpelli abolished the happy end from popular comedy with their milestone farce I Soliti ignoti? Because humor has nothing to do with good feelings. At least, it didn't to the eyes of that crazy movie industry which for a while gave its country of origin the dimensions of a continent.

Which brings me to this other topic : is it possible that most comments here were made by people who saw that movie with English subtitles? That can be a problem, especially for comedy. To difference of all other countries of the western world, English speaking markets (United States, England, English Canada) never developed a dubbing industry worth of the name. (Which also means that when they nevertheless try to dub something or other, the result is generally awful). Of course, from the point of view of domestic market dominance, that's excellent : with such a prophylactic wall, no foreign movie can seriously compete with English-speaking productions. (American comedy director Mel Brooks lead the battle a few years ago to have the French farce Les visiteurs dubbed in English, and lost).

Sometimes, I agree that subtitles are the least worse solution. But not when it comes to comedy, to farce, to entertainment. A subtitled comedy IS NOT FUNNY, or much less funny than the original-language OR dubbed version. For comedy is a matter of tempo, of timing : the one-liners have to fall in place all at the right millisecond. (Even more so when it's written by Age-Scarpelli, the best comedy writers in movie history!) And if you're busy reading the words down below instead of watching the faces of the actors, most of the time, you miss the shot.

To me, the most striking aspect of I compagni (which I saw and re-saw in French as Les Camarades) is that it is surprisingly funny : not unlike Monicelli's and Age-Scarpelli's preceding masterpiece La Grande guerra, I Compagni is a commedia all'italiana, i.e. a tragicomic, satirical fresco where epic and derision are mixed in equal proportions. This is what makes I compagni the best strike-movie ever made - better than Eisenstein's The Strike?!? yes sir! better than John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath?!? yes madam! better than Miguel Littin's Actas de Marusia, starring our beloved red icon Gian Maria Volontè?!? yes comrade! For its humorist's view of life is the perfect antidote against the rhetoric that almost always permeates that kind of film.

Mario Monicelli, Age-Scarpelli are ENTERTAINERS. Comedy specialists. For sure, the type of entertainment they were cooking back then was at the antipodes of Hollywood's feel-good, reassuring, consolative recipes, but IT WAS a recipe all the same, attracting spectators in Italian movie theaters by millions and millions. Commedia all'italiana is a SERIAL, an industrial recipe, producing tons and tons of movies each year between 1958 and 1980.

My problem here, you see, is one of perception : as soon as a movie is not American, it is almost automatically perceived in the United States as something "for intellectuals", happy few, snob radical-chic, whatever. The idea that foreigners also make ENTERTAINMENT for the million is quasi taboo. Well, it is a grave mistake.

As a spectator, I've never been so entertained than by Mario Monicelli's great comedies of the 50s, 60s and 70s - even when they are also very tragic (i.e. "depressing"), as this one evidently is.
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Monicelli delivers an effective blend of neorealism and commedia all'italiana
agboone710 June 2015
Mario Monicelli was one of the successors to the neorealist movement in Italian cinema, which began in the mid-'40s and catapulted Italy to the forefront of international cinema. Following it came a generation of Italian filmmakers — including Fellini and Antonioni — who had apprenticed under the neorealist directors, and who kept Italian cinema alive for one more generation while the "big three" neorealists (Rossellini, De Sica, and Visconti) moved in increasingly disparate directions.

Monicelli was one such filmmaker to emerge from the waning neorealist movement. His first big success, I believe, was the 1958 film, "Big Deal on Madonna Street", which is the first major film I know of from the commedia all'italiana genre ("comedy Italian style", taking its name from Pietro Germi's 1961 film, "Divorce Italian Style"). It's a wonderful comedy, and I'd recommend seeing it, if possible, before "The Organizer".

Commedia all'italiana is generally characterized by a mixture of mildly over-the-top humor and a gentle poignancy that anchors what could otherwise be absurdist farce. There tend to be light political undertones which unobtrusively satirize contemporary life in Italy, and an emotional undercurrent that stems from a sympathy with likable characters who simply can't get a foothold in modern society.

This all fits "Big Deal on Madonna Street" to a tee, but what about "The Organizer"? The film, released in 1963 and starring Marcello Mastroianni, has all the aforementioned qualities, but in smaller doses. It goes heavier on the drama, and lighter on the comedy, which is nearly always saturated with a pathos that exceeds what is typical of the commedia all'italiana genre. The resulting blend is sometimes uneven. There were times when I wasn't sure if something was supposed to be sad or funny. But I suppose there's no need for the two to be mutually exclusive, and there were other times where the humor and drama came together wonderfully.

"The Organizer" is halfway between a standard commedia all'italiana film and a more traditional neorealist exercise like "Bicycle Thieves" or "Umberto D.". We can certainly see the neorealist influence all over the film, but we can also see Monicelli's own unique brand of comedic farce in this entertaining blend of cinematic styles.

Monicelli was a lifelong Marxist and communist. Other than the apolitical Fellini, and perhaps Rossellini, whose politics are still a bit of an enigma to me, Italian cinema was filled with Marxist thinkers and self-proclaimed communists: Visconti, Pasolini, De Sica, Antonioni, Rosi, Bertolucci, Pontecorvo, and Monicelli. In fact, cinema in general has been filled with them: Godard, Gorin, Marker, Varda, Fassbinder, Ôshima, Eisenstein, Kalatozov, et cetera. More narrow-minded American viewers will need to be reminded that communism did not have the terrible connotation in Europe in the '60s that it has in America today. McCarthy did his job well in demonizing communism for Americans, but being a communist in Europe in those days was simply about politically engaged individuals seeking to rectify the social injustice they saw all around them. Today we associate it with tyranny and Stalinism, but that is very far from the reality of communism for Europeans who embraced it during the era in which "The Organizer" was made. Communism was simply a natural and inevitable response for countries like France and Italy, who had recently seen the other end of the political spectrum up close and personal. Americans have always been the quickest to scoff at communism, partly because we live in the capitalist center of the world, but also because, here on the other side of the Atlantic, we've been largely spared the ugliness of fascism (although McCarthy certainly gave us a glimpse).

The reason I delve into such contentious territory — something I would normally prefer to avoid — is because "The Organizer" is a plainly Marxist film, brazen in its declaration of political rights and wrongs, as those who discuss politics will almost invariably be. If your political compass is locked in a fixed anti-communist position, you will likely be unable to enjoy this film, which would be a shame, because there's a lot to enjoy here if you can set politics aside. I'm not political by nature, so I've never had any issue doing that. I respect the prerogative of filmmakers to express their ideas, even ones I don't agree with (in fact, those are often the perspectives I find I learn the most from), and so political cinema — of any variety — is always welcome on my television.

Overall, however, "The Organizer" is actually relatively unbiased, compared to many other exercises in left-wing cinema. Monicelli calls it a Marxist film, and it most certainly is, but it's Marxist in the humanist sense as much as it is in the communist sense. There is, of course, a deep sympathy with the working class, and that, on the whole, is the dominant tone of the film: sympathy. It's not so much the angry revolutionary mode of filmmaking that we see from, say, Godard in the early '70s. It's based much more in an empathy for human suffering, and a desire to see despairing individuals liberated from the prison walls created by their social class. This desire, after all, was the core of communism, before it was bastardized by Stalin.

"The Organizer" is an insightful film about the complexities and moral dilemmas surrounding revolution, and while I prefer less biased reflections on the subject, such as Fellini's "Orchestra Rehearsal", Herzog's "Even Dwarfs Started Small", or Tarr's "Werckmeister Harmonies", Monicelli does a respectable job of observing the obstacles that stand in the way of the revolutionary process. He is committed to a specific ideology, without question, but this is not by any means mindless propaganda. This is a high quality film that works both as a dramatic contemplation on the nature of revolution, and as a comedy based in lighthearted entertainment. Enjoy it on whichever level you prefer.

RATING: 8.00 out of 10 stars
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A testament to human weakness
swissguy-176-7270284 November 2012
This movie is an amazing study of human behaviour from the sheer selfishness and greed of the exploiters to the fear and desperation of the exploited. It is a testament to the weakness of humanity be it the weakness of greed leading to lack of compassion for one's fellow on the one hand and to the weakness of the exploited to allow themselves to be exploited for fear of losing the very little they have. The Organizer is the exception. He is not weak. He is compassionate. For this he pays dearly. Hated by the exploiters and not understood by the exploited. Perhaps he does not even understand himself. A powerful film and a must for anyone concerned with the current horror of Neo-Liberalism and global warming.
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A convincing portrayal of workers' struggle for better conditions
raymond-1517 July 2002
The struggle of the working class for shorter hours and better conditions in a Torino textile factory is well portrayed in this somewhat depressing film.....depressing because in many parts of the world the confrontation between management and workers has still not been resolved. The introduction of scab labour to replace striking workers brings the film to a dramatic climax.

It's a splendid cast with believable characters giving us both sides of the eternal argument. Is a 14 hour day with half hour lunch break asking too much of workers?

This is a film of great atmosphere created by the factory sets and the continual thrashing noise of the looms. When the factory whistle blows at 8 PM you share the joy and relief of the workers after a hard day. This is a documentary type drama to be seen, to be believed and to be remembered for we know that these workers and others like them put their jobs on the line for conditions that we now enjoy to-day.
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Gut Punch of an Ending
evanston_dad4 March 2020
There have been many movies about union organization over the years, and "The Organizer" is one of the best I've seen.

Marcello Mastroianni plays a teacher with a mysterious past who shows up in an Italian village and encourages the working folk to organize. As always in stories like this, there are those who are suspicious and those who are on his side. The film is spare and naturalistic in setting and tone, and it packs one gut punch of an ending.

"The Organizer" brought writers Age, Scarpelli, and Mario Monicelli (who also directed) an Oscar nomination for Best Original Story and Screenplay at the 1964 Academy Awards.

Grade: A
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A historical drama to learn from
charles18487 November 2019
The Organizer (The Comrades) is a historical drama, whether you also take it as comedy or not. The story happens in 1890s Italy when it had a newborn proletariat, not one as experienced as Germany or Britain. On the other hand, Italy did not have Bolshevik leaders as "backward" Russia would a decade later. The strengths and weaknesses of the professor, as well as of the proletarians of Turin, are true to the setting, which makes The Organizer an excellent realist movie. With the historical place in mind, the viewer gets a lot of insight into the key problem: how can the working class win? Not every battle, but the war.
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A Very Compelling Instance Of Great Cinematic Storytelling.
JoeKulik27 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Mario Monicelli's The Organizer (1963) is an excellent dramatic production.

It is a very engaging, and compelling period piece set in the late 19th Century textile worker's strike in Turin, Italy. The storyline is very believable, if not totally historically accurate.

The acting by the whole cast was somewhat inspired, very sincere, and believable. Marcello Mastroianni gives an exceptionally strong performance in a role that is quite different than the several others I seen him portray, that of a somewhat mild mannered, reflective, teacher cum labor organizer, who doesn't seem to be quite sure of himself on some level. This is certainly a departure from the glib, debonair, self assured, upper crust character that I've become accustomed to in the other films that I've seen him in. Yet,for me, his role in this film confirmed for me the breadth of his acting ability, and furthers my belief that he is one of the great actors of all time. Mastroianni is the dramatic lynchpin in this film, and carries the storyline to its conclusion.

The cinematography in this film is really great, giving the viewer a variety of interesting "looks", as a result of diverse camera positions, and camera angles.

The period sets and period costumes are very good. The huge indoor factory setting is amazing, and made me wonder where they got all that antique machinery.

The dramatic tone of the film was just right, in my opinion, somewhat walking the tightrope between the various emotional tensions inherent in the storyline at various points.

This film is just an example of good cinematic storytelling, allowing the viewer to see the emerging storyline from a diversity of character perspectives. The storyline has a few interesting twists, and the rather downbeat ending was rather unexpected, but left me pleasantly speculating about where the story went from there.
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