New Zealand filmmaker David Farrier has done it again, chronicling another story so wild that it can only be true — and this one started with an antiques store’s car park.
November 10, 2022
Twitter has sparked many things for many people, good, bad and in-between, a trend that began well before its late-2022 ownership change and resulting fallout. Still, amid all the social-media platform's mayhem across its history, the chaos started by a single tweet by New Zealand journalist and filmmaker David Farrier has few parallels. That may seem a big call given all that's ever unfurled 140 or 280 characters at a time. Mister Organ lays bare why that's accurate in agonising detail, however. 'Agonising' truly is the word for it — not to describe this equally gripping and mystifying documentary, but the twisty tale it tells and the ordeal that Farrier endures. Every director's work lives and dies on their ability to tell a story, especially when they trade in facts, but his work both thrives and astonishes via his uncanny knack to find stories so wild that they can only be the unvarnished truth.
In 2013, the Tickled and Dark Tourist filmmaker commented online about a bad customer-service experience, as every social-media user has at some point. Making such complaints is a rite of passage in the digital realm. Commenting after hearing about a pal's woes, as he did, also couldn't be more standard. Nonetheless, where Farrier's story has gone from there, devolving rather than evolving as he'd no doubt agree — his exasperation surges through the film like parody accounts through the current Twitter regime — is something that no one's most bizarre nightmares could've conjured up. Indeed, expect to watch Mister Organ with a jaw that keeps dropping. Expect to think twice the next time you publicly air a grievance, too, lest a local version of the film's eponymous figure pop up.
The tweet that started it all was inspired by one of Farrier's friends, who parked their car at Auckland's now-closed Bashford Antiques, then weathered an unpleasant aftermath. Threats of towing and instant abuse are hardly commonplace or acceptable, and neither is an immediate demand for $250 in order to be allowed to leave. Accordingly, it's no wonder that Farrier took to social media in his mate's support. He next began writing articles about the situation, and what seemed like a clamping racket, in 2016. In his first piece, he covered being asked by his employer three years prior to delete his tweet, too. His own ordeal was only just beginning, though, because his ordeal involves Michael Organ. Or, is that Micheal Organ? Michael Organe? MDA Organ? Michael Organ O'Sullivan? Or, maybe it's Count Michael Andrassy-Organe?
"You pay a soul tax for every minute you spend with him," Farrier notes of Mister Organ's namesake and man of many names, as well as his own latest disconcerting subject. Watching the documentary about the pair's run-ins, the feeling behind Farrier's observation makes itself starkly apparent — and only keeps solidifying the more the movie goes on. "I feel like I fucked up pitching the film in the first place," Farrier also advises during Mister Organ. It's a candid admission, particularly from a director in their own doco, and it's devastatingly astute. Making this feature forced him to keep interacting with Organ, his interest kept garnering a response from Organ, and the whole process — like time in True Detective — is a flat circle. The emotional and mental turmoil wrought by a tweet that became a few articles, then a film years in the making, is so blatantly evident and so forceful that Mister Organ's audience takes it on themselves during the documentary's 96-minute running time.
If you spotted the 'Count' title in one of Organ's monikers, yes, claiming to be royalty is also part of this narrative. That's in addition to helping impose onerous conditions on folks parking outside an antiques store, becoming the owner's constant companion to a seemingly controlling degree and swiftly getting litigious with Farrier about his reporting on the topic. As well as assisting with bringing legal proceedings against others, Organ has also defended himself in serious court cases. As with everything about his life — as told in Mister Organ, at least — the out-there strands and revelations keep snowballing. His web of interpersonal dealings, as fleshed out through discussions with ex-housemates and old acquaintances, brings discombobulated and infuriated interviewees into the doco. Finding someone to say a kind word about him is almost impossible, other than the attention-seeking, energy-draining, endlessly talkative Organ himself.
For newcomers to this very real scenario — something that needs stressing thanks to every swerve it takes — it's best to get the ins and outs while viewing, stolen boats and all, because no summary does them justice. The minutiae genuinely needs to be seen to be believed, as does Farrier's time trying to separate fact, fiction, lies, boasts and threats with Organ. Constant surprises come with the territory, even for veterans of the director's past filmmaking, which has never spun straightforward narratives. Of course, those familiar with Tickled and Dark Tourist will easily glean why Farrier was drawn to this tale, including at a visible cost to himself. This is another disturbing, perplexing, larger-than-life yet unshakeably authentic slice of life, and another piece of proof that humanity's worst impulses will always seep out any way they can.
Knowing why this is classic Farrier terrain and knowing why he's claimed himself this patch aren't the same thing; the more he appears on-screen in Mister Organ, which is often, the more Farrier makes it clear that he doesn't necessarily understand the latter himself. One of Mister Organ's inevitable feats is getting its audience contemplating the why of it all — why Farrier keeps gravitating towards this space, and why people like Organ repeatedly grace his frames — because why is a persistent sentiment among the hefty list of talking heads that've had the same run-ins with the same man. Also, trying to explain why Organ does what he does is impossible. Endeavouring to make sense of how he's been able to notch up such a sizeable roster of impacted parties is no less simple, but it is both fascinating and revealing. Then there's Mister Organ's other key question: would this tale hit home with such sheer and overwhelming bewilderment if someone else told it? The answer is likely yes — but few people can investigate and interrogate the flummoxing figures of the world like Farrier.