David Farrier Bites Off More Than He Can Chew In Excellent New Doc [Fantastic Fest]

Dec 28, 2022

When journalist and documentarian David Farrier grows restless, he must wish for the cosmos to deliver him a story in his niche: kooky, off-radar, and with a forbidding underbelly. And when David Farrier makes a wish, a monkey paw on the other side of the world twitches. Farrier took a pivot from entertainment reporting in 2016 with his debut film, “Tickled,” falling through the looking glass into a shadowy world of legal threats and defamation. Since then, he’s exposed clerical abuses, chatted up doomsday preppers, and visited such sunshiney places as Aokigahara, but none of these compare to his biggest oopsie to date: befriending inveterate conman Michael Organ in “Mister Organ.”
One befriends Organ the way Othello befriended Iago, of course, but Farrier couldn’t have known how he bit off much more than he could chew when he started investigating the shameless liar several years back. At first, he thought Organ was a mere hired thug for a snooty antique dealer, clamping cars parked by her establishment after hours and charging their owners’ colossal fees for release. When Farrier’s reporting shuts down the antiques dealer and Organ’s mafia-style extortion racket, the antique shop goes down, too; Farrier nabs a discarded old sign, stores it at his home as a memento, and, thinking that’s all he wrote, goes about life as usual. Then comes the legal summons. Then comes Michael Organ.
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Summarizing “Mister Organ,” much like “Tickled,” is such a hellish task that you’ll envy Sisyphus his boulder. Partly this is the nature of Farrier’s niche as a journalist. Anything that comes with an easy logline holds little interest for him. This isn’t a criticism. It’s just Farrier fact, and it’s the reason “Tickled” works so well and will come as such a surprise to unwary viewers. “Mister Organ” functions according to the same dynamics as “Tickled,” but on another level, because–and this is a gross oversimplification–you have never met a man like Michael Organ in your life, and you have no idea how lucky you are. You have heard of men like Michael Organ, certainly, and if you’re reading this, you’re plugged in enough that you’ve heard from them, either through Twitter or YouTube or Facebook or television, but that’s not the same as what Farrier goes through here. 
We live in the Organ age. Lying liars are in vogue. They are in office. They are in power. They are in your home even if you don’t want them to be, which is literally what happens to Farrier partway through the film–but alas, spoilers. Comparing Organ to the far-right global leaders and extremist politicians plaguing society does him too much favor, to the extent that Organ’s social impact is micro rather than macro. Still, if a person ruins your life, you probably don’t give a shit if he’s the president or just some fork-tongued asshole gaslighting you into believing you’re guilty of the crimes he’s committed. “Mister Organ” unpacks Farrier’s goateed person of interest from the clamps to the courtroom, finding a rich litigious history as well as made-up claims of royal lineage. On paper, Organ sounds delusional. On-screen, he’s so much more dangerous than that.
It speaks volumes to Farrier’s character that he stuck with his investigation into Organ’s infamy even as those dangers came into sharper relief. Associating with Organ requires either courage or endurance. Farrier has both. He leans more on the latter than the former, but this, again, is not a criticism as much as an acknowledgment of reality. If “Mister Organ” tells us anything, it’s that Organ loves nothing more than hearing the sound of his voice, droning on ad infinitum, spinning the same yarns over and over, occasionally spinning new ones out of the old. Sitting through all the dribble doesn’t exhaust Farrier’s courage. It tests his buttocks’ fortitude. What calls on his bravery, though, is Organ’s sinister side, one face among his many and indisputably his worst.
In a postscript, the film lets the audience know that the end of “Mister Organ” isn’t the end of Michael Organ, or his obsession with Farrier. We may take this as an opportunity to impose accountability on Farrier: he should have left well enough alone and kept Organ out of his life. He had that chance, after all, and he didn’t take it. But the reason he didn’t is that he’s a damn journalist and not a hack; and what horrors Organ inflicted on him, which, no disrespect to Farrier’s experience, amount to a fraction of those he’s inflicted on others, don’t make him guilty in the case of his victimhood. He isn’t the schmuck, but the schlemiel; not the unctuous jerk who spills his soup, but the sap whose lap the soup falls in.
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What this may add to, depending on your approach to journalistic ethics and integrity, is an instance of a storyteller making themselves the story. But “Mister Organ” delineates how Farrier set out to tell a story and wound up becoming the story for the explicit crime of simply doing his job. He is the movie’s centerpiece even after Farrier convinces Organ to participate in the documentary because Organ’s massive ego apparently forbade him from rejecting a chance to be on camera speaking to his favorite subject: Michael Organ. You can argue that “Mister Organ” is a movie about Farrier’s folly, though that would be most unkind. The better argument is that “Mister Organ” is a movie about hubris as the Achilles’ heel of all men like Organ, and yes, about the perils of sticking your nose where you oughtn’t. 
But arguments are less important than sensation. “Mister Organ” prods the sweet spot where discomfort tangles up with outrage. Organ is an obvious scheming prick, but like Edward Hyde, he is alone in the ranks of men, pure evil. Farrier often anchors the lens to his body, composing reaction shots as he talks to Organ in person, or over the phone, or worse, talks about him to other folks over the phone, evincing Organ’s extraordinary gift for burrowing into his targets’ psyche. In these scenes, Farrier looks like he’s trying to both build up and suppress an urge to hurl. Organ’s poison, these moments tell us, affects body and mind alike. Cinema acts as bentoquatam for Farrier’s audience: We get to observe the venom’s potency without letting the snake sink its fangs into our flesh. 
Still, “Mister Organ” lingers in the mind, much like its title figure–but not because of him. Farrier bit off more than he could chew and choked it all down anyways, and that kind of journalism deserves a medal. It deserves its own sub-category, too: Fucking Around And Finding Out. He’s half the reason “Mister Organ” deserves attention. The other half is the satisfaction of getting to the bottom of a good, seedy mystery, and few come as seedy as this. [A]
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Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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