The story of a Swiss banker traveling through Argentina during the juntaAzor”Takes place in the private banking monastery. In a world that one is often born into, with special codes of conduct and dialects, private bankers prefer to operate outside the public eye – therefore banks endure and build wealth for centuries while their criminal customers can rise and fall. Azor itself is a code word that means “don’t say too much” or “hold the cards close”, a quality that the film and its protagonist emphasize in such a way that viewers will guess until the last moment.
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Yvan de Wiel (Fabrizio Rongione) is a third generation Swiss banker who travels to Argentina for the first time after the disappearance of his partner Rene Keys. De Wiel’s job is delicate – he has to convince clients of the stability of his bank despite his missing partner and rival, while trying to find out what happened to Keys without suffering the same fate. The film is essentially a series of social visits struggling to maintain a veneer of normalcy even when a cloud of fear hangs over the country. Together with his urban wife Ines, (Stephanie Cléau), who equips him with social strategies and helps him dress well (but not so well as to outshine customers), follows de Wiel Keys’ path to the heart of the Argentine regime and the mysterious “Lazaro”.
While open colonialism has largely subsided today, the director has Andreas Fontana (who is Swiss himself and has also lived in Argentina) clearly sees the bankers as part of a colonial project that continues to this day; at one point de Wiel (who lives in a castle in Europe) compares himself to Cortez, the conquistador. “Azor” is an indictment against the Swiss banks, which have profited from criminal regimes and are still in business, but also against the many smaller compromises that the rich make with power. It may be a historical piece, but similar stories are playing out around the world today.
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“Azor” is a film made of impeccably polished facades that can hide horror. Argentina’s greatest wealth at the time was tied to the political violence of the dirty war, and in drawing attention to it, “Azor” turns social calls into a thriller. Even if the bulk of the conversation is just chatting and revolving around the real issues, it feels terribly urgent as the characters are constantly examining each other, calculating, and deciding how much they can afford to reveal. This is Fontana’s feature film debut, and it shows an excellent way to add textures to animated dialogue scenes, with recordings lingering on impressive decorative pieces, an affectively disorienting soundtrack, and quick glimpses into the Disappeared, all used to control the mood.
Meanwhile, de Wiel is indifferent, his feelings towards what he sees as unknown, a perfect canvas for his clients and the film’s audience to project their wishes onto. There are references to “Heart of darkness“That becomes clear in the end when de Wiel walks up the river to meet his fate, but Fontana modifies this famous finale with an ending that is surprising in its simplicity so that the audience can decide for themselves where the horror lies. [A]