December 28, 2021
by Carla Hay
Directed by Andreas Fontana
Spanish and French with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in Argentina in 1980, the dramatic film “Azor” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Latinos) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A Swiss banker encounters mystery and controversy when he arrives in a politically chaotic Argentina after a banker colleague disappears.
Culture Audience: “Azor” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching “slow burn” movies about international politics and financial dealings.
“Azor” requires patience in getting to the bottom of the mystery presented in the film. It’s a dialogue-heavy drama about a Swiss banker who travels to Argentina when one of his business partners has disappeared. The story unfolds at a pace that might be too slow for some viewers, but it should hold the interest of viewers who are intrigued by how the worlds of politics and finance are intertwined.
Swiss filmmaker Andreas Fontana makes an assured feature-film directorial debut with “Azor,” which he co-wrote with Argentinian filmmaker/actor Mariano Llinás. This international collaboration on the screenplay serves the movie well, which shows how a Swiss banker navigates his visit to Argentina in 1980, during a politically volatile period in Argentina’s history. In 1980, Argentina was under a military dictatorship.
Under these circumstances, Swiss banker Yvan de Wiel (played by Fabrizio Rongione) has traveled from Geneva, Switzerland, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, with his wife, Inès de Wiel (played by Stéphanie Cléau), because of an urgent matter: Yvan’s business partner René Keys (played by Alain Gegenschatz) has disappeared. René also happens to be Inès’ cousin, but she tells Yvan that she doesn’t know where René is or when he’ll be coming back.
Yvan and René are among the owners of a private financial institution called Keys Lamar De Wiel Bank. Yvan inherited his share of the bank from his grandfather. There are part of “Azor” that show how Yvan has some insecurities about being perceived as an unqualified heir—someone who’s in this privileged banking position not because he earned it but because he happened to be born into the right family.
Much of “Azor” is about Yvan finding out that René left behind a mess of disgruntled customers and alienation among business colleagues. Yvan has to give apologies on behalf of René. Yvan even tells a client that René’s “attitude is deplorable.” Mr. Decôme (played by Gilles Privat), a former partner of the bank and a good friend of Yvan’s father, describes René as “brilliant” but “toxic” and someone who “lost his mind.”
Did René voluntarily disappear or did he run into foul play? Yvan starts to find some clues in René’s appointment book. He also gets some clues a collegaue named Dekerman (played by Juan Pablo Geretto), who gives Yvan some gossipy inside information about which clients might or might not be the most upset with René.
And he discovers that even though René wasn’t very well-liked by some business colleagues in Argentina, René had his share of fans. One of them is an elderly woman named Viuda Lacrosteguy (played by Carmen Iriondo), who tells Yvan that she and René had such a friendly rapport with each other, they’d play a game: She would start to a sing a song, and René would finish it.
Another admirer of René’s is a horse enthusiast named Anibal Farrell (played by Ignacio Vila), whom Yvan thinks is a difficult client. Anibal is such a fan of René’s, Dekerman describes Anibal’s attitude about René as being “like the drug addict who sucks the dealer’s cock.” This crude language in a world of elite bankers, ambassadors and society people is the first indication that things in this world might not be so genteel at first glance.
Yvan gets deeper and deeper into the a web of intrigue that eventually leads him to a clergyman named Monseigneur Tatoski (played by Pablo Torre Nilson), who is heavily involved in international politics. Although some scenes in “Azor” take place in an Argentinian jungle, much of the movie consists of conversations in lavish homes or corporate offices.
None of the acting is particularly outstanding, but Rongione does a capable job of keeping viewers guessing about the character of Yvan and how far he’s willing to go in his quest. The word “azor” is Spanish for “goshawk,” a bird that is defined by its keen ability to observe before attacking its prey. At one point in the movie, it’s mentioned that “azor” means “Be quiet and be careful what you say.” The film will keep people guessing up until a certain point about who’s the observant predator and who’s the unwitting prey.
Because “Azor” is a very talkative film, it might bore viewers who are expecting more physical action in this story. “Azor” is also not an appealing movie for people who don’t care about behind-the-scenes machinations of bankers and politicians. If viewers decide to stick with the movie and watch it to the very end, they’ll find some surprises proving that initial impressions aren’t always the correct impressions.
MUBI released “Azor” in select U.S. cinemas on September 10, 2021. The movie premiered on the MUBI streaming service on December 3, 2021.