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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I Compagni (aka The Organizer) (1963)

In late 19th century Turin, the exploited workers of a factory go on strike for better working conditions. To this end, they are aided by a mild mannered professor (Marcello Mastroianni) on the run from authorities for his Marxist activism. A potent combination of late neorealism and period drama, director Mario Monicelli (BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET) who co-wrote the Oscar nominated screenplay and his wizard of a cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno (Visconti's THE LEOPARD) bring a sense of authenticity to this stirring epic of downtrodden laborers fighting for a decent existence. Rotunno's stunning B&W imagery is like looking through an old photograph album of daguerreotype pictures. In the current often anti-union political climate, the film reminds us just why they exist in the first place. But I don't want to make it sound like the film is merely a pro-union political tract. The film is rich in humor as well as amity and while Mastroianni's work with Fellini and De Sica seems to be what he is most remembered for, his work here reminds us that he gave wonderful performances under other directors too. Monicelli's disturbing final shot sums up in seconds what the film is all about. With Annie Girardot, Renato Salvatori, Bernard Blier, Francois Perier and Rafaella Carra.

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