By Adam Ray Palmer
First debuting at the Berlinale, the second film I caught at the London Film Festival was director Andreas Fontana and writer Mariano Llinás’ political-thriller, Azor.
Starring Fabrizio Rongione, Stéphanie Cléau, Carmen Iriondo; writer-director Andreas Fontana’s first feature is a slow-burn of the highest order.
From the off, we are immediately put on the back foot with the backdrop surrounding the 1980s unease and unrest in Argentina. Set in 1980, the military dictatorship is uniting its grip on the country through terror, intimidation and forced disappearances. Yvan De Wiel has arrived in Buenos Aires with his stylish wife Inés after his banking predecessor, Keys, is nowhere to be seen and perhaps himself disappeared. It quickly translates that Yvan must tread carefully to balance the interests of his wealthy clients with the treacherous and radical situation within the country.
Azor is built around the unease and the unknown. This makes for an unpredictable narrative that plays out like mafia movie coupled with a few brief references from a horror flick. For a first feature from Fontana, it’s an impressive and assured approach in the way he manages to evade the potholes and traps of going all in for the big show; instead keeping a low profile and letting the slow burn have its place.
For an entrant into the “thriller genre”, it’s certainly not your typical crowd-pleaser with an appreciating climax, but instead an unhurried narrative that makes it all the more mysterious. However, this is sometimes a little tedious when you just want the story to give you a little more. For 100 minutes of run time, it occasionally feels like it’s frustratingly doubled.
Alongside the measured script, it’s important to note that the cast fully understood the assignment. Their roles, especially the supporting actors, are on the ball here - Ines with her desire and aloofness and a particularly eery and serene monsignor.
For a first feature, it’s well-polished and nuanced; and gets the job done in what it wants to deliver. The lack of oomph though really affects my enjoyment of it. Some will love this film and be up there with the best of 2021, but for me, it nestles itself in the “glad I watched it and will look out for the next project from the director”.
Cineroom’s rating: 3 stars
Azor premiered at the London Film Festival on 6th October – certificate 15