This article is part of our coverage of the 2022 edition of Fantastic Fest, taking place from September 22-29. In this entry, we review the new David Farrier film, Mister Organ. Follow along with our reviews, interviews, and features from the fest in our Fantastic Fest archive.
People truly are strange. It’s not a surprising revelation, necessarily, but every time you think you’ve seen the limit of someone’s eccentricities along comes someone new to remind us that there really are no limits at all. Perhaps not coincidentally, New Zealand journalist David Farrier once again finds himself the messenger of that particular truth with his new documentary, Mister Organ. As he does with 2016’s deliriously unhinged Tickled, his latest is a reminder that if you go digging you’ll quite likely find weirdos lurking just beneath the surface.
While Farrier has dabbled in films, his day job is as a journalist on the page in New Zealand. A news story out of Auckland catches his eye about outraged customers being targeted, harassed, and extorted by a “serial clamper” — a parking lot attendant locking people’s cars in until the owners pay him hundreds of dollars — working outside an antiques store. Farrier digs in a little and writes about the situation and the clamper himself, but what should have been simple becomes extraordinarily complex as the man’s truths come clear.
Well, truths is hardly accurate, as everything Farrier discovers about Michael Organ seems wrapped up in lies, rumors, accusations, and utter nonsense. The man is an enigma by choice and by design, and he quickly — or not so quickly as Farrier’s investigation stretches across a few years — goes from quirky to threatening as Farrier is pulled into an antagonistic mystery he can’t escape.
As is often the case with the best documentaries, Mister Organ is as much about its subject as it is about the rest of us. From our curiosity about others to our tendency to allow those same people to shape our own lives, the film explores a wildly eccentric and dangerous man while turning the mirror towards our own attraction to such characters. It’s funny at times and disturbing at others, and it’s a story you won’t soon forget.
Farrier’s investigation reveals conflicting reports about Organ revealing him to be a world-class liar who’s as slippery as they come. Claims of being royalty, accusations of theft (in both directions), and a manipulation of the system are all in a day’s work for Organ, and Farrier’s efforts to interview the man make the picture both clearer and even more obfuscated. Mister Organ is charming in his weirdness, slick in the ways he manipulates conversations, and wholly incapable of speaking a direct truth. It’s fascinating and entertaining in equal measure, and half of that fun is seeing Farrier himself grow understandably frustrated and bewildered after every conversation.
Things take a turn, though, as they often do, and soon Mister Organ reveals just how dangerous a self-involved narcissist can truly be. Organ goes from a real-life embodiment of What We Do in the Shadow‘s energy vampire — Farrier’s realization that the man thrives on sucking the life out of those around him is very humorous — to a sociopath, and it’s disturbing to see unfold. But it’s no less entertaining and intriguing, and therein rests the rub.
Like the litany of people Farrier interviews who’ve previously crossed paths with Organ, many of whom appear anonymously lest they be targeted by the man again, the filmmaker himself loses an enormous amount of time to someone who’s ultimately not deserving of the attention he thrives upon. But like us, he simply can’t look away. Farrier sees Organ as a challenge, a mystery that needs to be solved and diminished through a presentation of facts — but like far too many deplorable people these days, facts just don’t matter to Organ. His world is the only world that matters… and it’s fascinating to see.
Mister Organ explores the life and lies of a man who we’d all be lucky to avoid ever meeting. But the curiosity remains, both to find the “truth” and because many of us likely believe we’d be the one to actually crack this particular nut. The satisfaction of getting Organ to actually drop his charade and admit to something — anything — would be immense, but as Farrier’s exhaustive effort shows, it’s a satisfaction that just doesn’t exist. Luckily for us, if not for Farrier himself as he becomes as much a focus here as his subject, reaching that conclusion is both engaging and entertaining as hell.