Warning: some spoilers.
Azor (dir. Andreas Fontana, 2021) was weird.
Weird, but in an age where every new movie is basically a twist on some classic Hollywood trope (I keep coming back to the concept of "optimal novelty"), weird is not necessarily bad.
Weird is also not necessarily good: some films try so hard that they end up falling on the other extreme end of the spectrum, where only film students dare to venture. The end of the spectrum where you might find The Innocence (dir. Ashraf Shishir, 2019): a black and white Bangladeshi film with a 21-hour running time.
Azor lands somewhere between Hollywood "I've seen it before" and indie "I never asked for this".
It's set in Argentina, 1980. The military junta has taken control of the country, backed by the USA on a quest to quench communism. Thousands of people were disappeared in the so-called "dirty war", which was really less like a war and more like state terrorism against the political opposition.
So: what story would you expect a film director to bring to the silver screen against this backdrop?
Fontana came up with the story of a polite Swiss private banker's disturbingly banal descent into evil.
The directing itself is just as unlikely: where you might expect action, blood and screams, you get old money private clubs where soft-spoken gentlemen do business while their stylish wives entertain by the pool.1
Everything happens "hors-champs", offscreen. Nothing is ever said explicitly, and purebred horses are disappearing from ranches. Jessica Kiang says it best in her fantastic thoughts on the film in the MUBI Notebook:
Here, all appearances are deceptive; only disappearances reveal.
Yes, Azor was weird. And slow. And ambiguous. And captivating, and superb, and refreshing.
It was good weird.
Unfortunately, Azor isn't streaming on Mubi anymore. It might be in a cinema near you. You can also watch the trailer on YouTube, and if you want to read more, I recommend Jessica Kiang's thoughts on the film in the MUBI Notebook, quoted above, and this interview of Andreas Fontana in The Moveable Fest. Fontana was inspired by the work of photographer Slim Aarons, who documented the lives of the elite in the 50s, 60s and 70s. ↩
Fontana was inspired by the work of photographer Slim Aarons, who documented the lives of the elite in the 50s, 60s and 70s. ↩