Azor – Film Review
by Brian Merriman
Director – Andreas Fontana
Writers – Andreas Fontana, Mariano Llinás
Stars – Alexandre Trocki, Elli Medeiros, Fabrizio Rongione
“Azor” is the space between being quiet and being careful what you say. The late 1970s in Argentina saw the embedding of the military Junta that had ousted President Isabella Peron, second wife of President Juan Peron (and Evita’s successor). As with most Juntas, rather than liberate the people, they exert excessive control, often leaving many to lament for the return of ‘the old days’. The film is set in late 1980, with this threatening presence looming large over proceedings.
The plot begins to unfold with all the intrigue expected from a ‘Jason Bourne’ story, but it is a totally different treatment, despite the many unexpected twists and turns. Written and directed by debut feature filmmaker Andreas Fontana, “Azor” is a slow and concentrated development of a complex and layered plot, full of intrigue and skulduggery. The story, which focusses on a studied and understated ‘Yvan de Weil’ (Fabrizio Rongione), shows equal contempt for the Junta and the amoral Swiss banking system, that often enabled such corrupt regimes to endure, by throwing them critical financial lifelines, unavailable in more open and regulated financial systems.
The beautifully underplayed private banker ‘de Wiel’ arrives in Argentina with his talented wife ‘Ines’ (Stéphanie Cléau) following the sudden disappearance of his charming but indiscreet banking partner, Keys. Keys’ opaque legacy is a tangled web of relationships, opportunism, and political courtship that seems to detach him from the other third-generation bankers who run the private Swiss bank with him. The ‘de Weil’ couple use their collaborative social skills to try to unravel what Keys has done, in a salvage effort to remain competitive in a tightening banking Swiss sector, now attracting commercial bankers as their main competition.
The plot is told in five distinct smoke-filled episodes, each one introducing new, wealthy and somewhat dysfunctional characters of a certain age and position, beautifully played by a highly skilled range of established actors. Each face told a back story before a line was uttered, with a particularly sleazy Monsignor working hand in glove with corruption.
The ‘de Weils’ tread skilfully and carefully in this watched land. They socialise through their Swiss connections, building their own relationships with the wealthy clientele, divided between Keys’ devotees and enemies. The plot evolves with care, in a slow and logical way designed to surprise, it does just that. Rather than focussing traditionally on the corrupt or those who challenge it, it has its own surprising ‘anti-hero’ that sustains the plot and gives testimony to the advice of ‘never underestimating the quiet ones’. Expect the unexpected but… be patient.