Mister Organ Review: A Darkly Funny, Highly Disturbing Documentary About A Pathological Liar [Fantastic Fest]

Who is Michael Organ? He's royalty. He's a lawyer. He's a genius; the smartest guy in any room. At least, that's clearly what he thinks. But those who have run afoul of the New Zealander have a much different impression. According to seemingly everyone, Michael Organ is a pathological liar. We're not talking little white lies here; Organ appears to lie about literally everything, to everyone, at all times. Worse: he allegedly obsessively zeroes in on people he deems to be weak and systematically ruins their lives. 

To be clear: Organ isn't physically harming anyone. But his modus operandi seems to be a sick desire to somehow bore people into submission. Organ likes to talk. And talk and talk and talk. He can talk for hours and never let anyone get a word in edgewise. He's like the living embodiment of energy vampire Colin Robinson on "What We Do in the Shadows." Speaking of "Shadows," Organ also talks and behaves like a Matt Berry character come to life, which sounds funny in theory, but would probably be exhausting in reality. And he won't stop, ever. He's like the Terminator of talking. 

What motivates Michael Organ? Where did he come from? And why won't he ever own up to his actions? These are the many questions raised by "Mister Organ," David Farrier's darkly funny, frequently horrifying documentary that attempts to solve the mystery that is Michael Organ. Like Farrier's doc "Tickled," "Mister Organ" starts off as one thing before slowly transforming into a completely different, and far more disturbing story. As "Mister Organ" begins, it tells the tale of an Auckland antique shop, Bashford Antiques, and the strange scandal that resulted in the shop being closed down. 

The shop's owner, Gillian Bashford, took the parking spots in front of her store very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that she heavily cracked down on anyone who dared to park there when the shop was closed. To enforce this, Bashford hired a tow truck driver who went above and beyond the call of duty. The driver would either put a boot on a car's tire and wait for the owner to show up, or would deliberately block drivers with his truck. Then he would proceed to talk to them — for hours. Or perhaps talking to them isn't correct. It's more like he talks at them, prattling on and on and on, establishing his dominance in the process. And oh yeah, to get their cars back, the drivers would have to fork over $700. Farrier, a journalist who specializes in writing about these strange sorts of true stories, set about writing a series of articles all about this, and the articles resulted in a full-blown scandal that went all the way to Parliament. But that was just the beginning. 

Who is Mister Organ?

Eventually, Farrier ended up in court, sued by Gillian Bashford for stealing property from her closed shop (it was a sign, which Farrier says he found in the trash). The man who showed up to represent Bashford in court was none other than the tow truck driver involved with the parking scandal — Michael Organ. And unfortunately for Farrier, Organ was very persuasive in court, so much so that Farrier lost the case. It didn't help that the sign vanished from Farrier's property. 

But wait, there's more. In a strange twist, Organ and Bashford agree to sit down and speak with Farrier, and over the course of several years, the filmmaker films long, rambling conversations with Organ. Bashford is usually there, too, but she sits silently for the most part and lets Organ do all the talking. And how could she not? He loves to talk. Now, right about now, you're probably asking, "What's so disturbing about a guy who talks a lot?" And indeed, part of the Organ's insidious nature seems to be the way he grinds people down over a period of time without them even realizing it. If you deal with this sort of person day to day, you might grow accustomed to the way they operate, and not even realize it's happening. But when you see it all cut together, back to back, as it is here, a clearer picture begins to form.

Indeed, there's an unsettling moment in the movie where Farrier has an epiphany that he's spent years talking to Organ without actually getting any answers — and since he's making a movie, he has to keep talking to Organ until he gets somewhere. This realization is so horrifying to Farrier that his face crumples for a moment, as if he's about to cry. And he has a right to be concerned — Organ keeps talking about nefarious plots, and at one point reveals he somehow has a key to Farrier's house (Farrier tries the key and confirms it is indeed legit). 

A black hole

And through it all, Organ keeps popping up, prattling away like a blowhard and saying absolutely nothing. He sounds like he's speaking intelligently, but if you really start to listen, you realize he's not saying anything of any meaning. He's just talking, mostly about himself. And almost everything he's saying appears to be a lie.  As the film progresses, Farrier keeps talking with people from Organ's past — primarily old roommates who all share similar stories about how they were all but driven slowly insane by being in proximity to the man. Many of them describe him as a kind of black hole who sucks in all light and energy. Farrier also tries to speak with Organ's family, all of whom give him the brush-off. You could argue that they have every right to do that, and they do. At the same time, it paints a portrait of Organ as a mysterious figure who perplexes everyone. 

The banal insidiousness of it all began to fill me with a type of nameless dread. Backed up by a droning, unsettling score, "Mister Organ" begins to seem like a horror movie. Organ himself seems harmless, at least physically. But he exudes a certain temperament that appears slightly off. Why is he doing any of this? Does he even realize he's doing it? Or does he believe his own stories?

All of this is told completely from Farrier's perspective, and I'm sure Organ would argue that that makes the entire film biased and unfair. That's his right. But as Farrier plays one droning, maddening conversation with Mister Organ after another, it's hard not to believe that the people telling disturbing stories about Michael Organ are all telling the truth, and truth isn't something you can easily ascribe to Michael Organ himself. 

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10