Directed by Mario Monicelli. Written by Age-Scarpelli (Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli) and Mario Monicelli. Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Renato Salvatori, Annie Girardot, Gabriella Giorgelli, Folco Lulli, Bernard Blier, Francois Perier, Vittorio Sanipoli, Mario Pisu, Kenneth Kove, Giampiero Albertini. (Unrated, 130 mins).
Famed Italian director Mario Monicelli (BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET) was never identified with the Neorealist movement but was occasionally on the periphery, usually as a script contributor on films like THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING US and BITTER RICE. But Neorealism's influences can be seen in THE ORGANIZER, released this week in beautiful DVD and Blu-ray editions by Criterion.
THE ORGANIZER (Italian title: I COMPAGNI, or The Comrades) wears its socialist politics on its sleeve with the story of a late 1800s strike at a Turin textile factory. The workers, worn down by 14-hour work days with one 30-minute lunch, revolt when an aging, exhausted worker loses his hand in a machine accident. Uneducated and with a good number of them illiterate, their initial attempts at dealing with management--first with the glad-handing, manipulative supervisor (Vittorio Sanipoli) who keeps trying to convince them that he's on their side and he's "one of them," and then with the openly condescending manager (Mario Pisu)--get them nowhere. But one day, a grubby-looking stranger calling himself Professor Sinigaglia (Marcello Mastroianni) arrives in town and immediately latches himself to their cause. But who is Sinigaglia? He has a friend in schoolteacher Mr. DiMeo (Francois Perier), and may be on the run from police in Genoa. He may even be a con artist. But he's a natural, charismatic leader, and he inspires the factory workers to stand up for themselves and helps them put together a strike from the planning stages to implementation. Their demands? A 13-hour work day with a one-hour lunch break, and accident insurance But the factory management, and the old, angry owner Mr. Luigi (Kenneth Kove) aren't about to play ball.
Criterion have done their usual masterful job with this acclaimed-in-its-day but now somewhat forgotten film whose rediscovery in the US seems perfectly timed with today's economic and political concerns. Highly recommended.
|One-sheet for the film's 1964 US release|