If I had the power, I’d make every psychology student at every college and university in America see Mister Organ. You’re not likely to find a more explicit portrait of malignant narcissism in action. I once knew a man who owned a therapy clinic. He told me that when hiring, he would ask applicants why they got into the field, and if they said it was to help people, he didn’t hire them. Why, I asked? “Helping people is a nice benefit,” he said, “but the truth is that we do this job because it’s fascinating.” David Farrier’s documentary exemplifies what he meant by that.
Farrier, whose previous film Tickled is also gripping, became intrigued by a story he saw on the news. A man in his neighborhood was clamping the tires of cars in a parking lot belonging to an antique store. He extorted hundreds of dollars from people in order to take those clamps off. A little investigation revealed the man to be Michael Organ, a con artist with a series of aliases and a penchant for passing himself off as a prince. Farrier convinces Organ to become the subject of a film. Thus begins a frustrating, dysfunctional relationship.
Why would Organ agree to this? As the director quickly finds out, he’s a total narcissist who claims to hate the attention of Farrier’s camera while internally savoring it. Here’s where Mister Organ gets wild. Farrier spends three years trying to get to the bottom of his subject’s personality. He is continually met with endless self-aggrandizing speeches, accusations of persecution, and outright hostility that’s intermittently tempered with phony geniality.
The point here is that Organ is unknowable. What he allegedly reveals about himself can never be trusted. The man wears Farrier down by talking in circles, often for hours at time. For all the talking he does, he says absolutely nothing. Anyone hoping Mister Organ will reveal a shocking secret about the mercurial person at its center will be disappointed. Michael Organ has built up a mystique about himself, one he safeguards through an impenetrable wall of gibberish.
Seeing this guy in action is riveting and more than a little scary. Several interviewees appear in the movie, each claiming to be literally afraid of Organ. They claim he intentionally tries to ruin the life of anyone in his orbit. Farrier finds this out the hard way. The dynamic here is impossible to look away from. Rarely do you get to see a malignant narcissist operating to this degree. Suspense comes from wondering how – or, for that matter, if – Farrier will be able to extricate himself from Organ’s web of insanity.
Mister Organ is the kind of documentary that makes you sit there with your mouth agape, stunned by what you’re witnessing. Michael Organ will absolutely, 100% get on your nerves. You’ll be glad you spent 96 minutes studying him, and even more glad to get away from him.
out of four
Mister Organ is unrated, but contains pervasive language. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.