“Azor”, for a handful of dollars … stashed in Switzerland

Following the mysterious disappearance of his partner, whom no one seems to have heard from, a private banker from Geneva goes to Argentina to resume his business. Here he is, in the midst of a dictatorship, forced to embark on a “camel tour”, namely a sort of rite of passage consisting of visiting extremely wealthy families who have chosen the discretion of Swiss private banks for the management of their fortunes. Accompanied by his wife Inès, here is Yvan De Wiel moving from one large house to another, with its share of unsaid, innuendo and more or less buried secrets.

Azor is a slow film, carried by a photograph oscillating dressily between dark and opulent interiors and gardens flooded by a diaphanous light. We are in the 1980s, and we can clearly see the end of an era, a faltering bourgeoisie, the economic crisis which will later roll over the country. René Keys, De Wiel’s partner, has disappeared, along with the daughter of a client and thousands of Argentines.

Premiere at the Berlinale

But the dictatorship is not the primary subject of the film, which takes the form of a chamber thriller as the encounters follow one another and the name of a certain Lázaro appears, of which De Wiel is asks what role he may have played in Keys’ disappearance. And in the shadow of her husband, even more ambitious than him, Inès turns out to be a formidable strategist … “The fear makes you mediocre”, she will end up swinging at Yvan.

This diffuse and intriguing story, which holds in suspense with not much, was inspired in Andreas Fontana by the figure of his grandfather, a diplomat reconverted in the private bank. Born in Geneva in 1982, graduated in production from ECAL (Cantonal Art School of Lausanne) and HEAD (Geneva University of Art and Design), Fontana worked as a production assistant in Buenos Aires before to sign some short films. Unveiled a year ago as part of the Berlinale en ligne, then in Geneva as part of Filmar en América latina, Azor is his first feature.

We do not know if it is his training as a producer that he owes his rigor, where too many beginner directors want to put everything in their first film, but the fact remains that the Genevan signs a feature film of a beautiful mastery, until its final evoking in a certain way Apocalypse Now. To be continued, as they say.

Azor, by Andreas Fontana (Switzerland, France, Argentina, 2021), with Fabrizio Rongione, Stéphanie Cléau, Carmen Iriondo, Elli Medeiros, 1h40.

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