Tuesday, September 27, 2005


There are times when a film is made that doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the genre, but it is so exceedingly well at going about itself that it becomes a classic nonetheless. Such is the case with Fabián Bielinsky's Argentinian grifter classic: Nine Queens.
The movie starts out deceptively simple. A young con-man pulls the classic small-con involving sleight of hand (and quick-talking) around getting a store clerk to make change for a large bill, and paying too much. But, when a second con-man, his various criminal contacts, and his sexy firecracker of a sister come into the picture, the tricks and one-upmanship begin to escalate from the small-con up to dizzying layers-within-layers of the big-con. In this case, it involvs a rare set of German Stamps (the source of the movies title), a rich buyer hiding from the international police (in town for only one day naturally), and an expensive hotel managed by the aforementioned sister.
One could perhaps argue that the film is commenting on the state of Argentina, with dirty deals leading to the collapse of the economy (and may folks savings as the currency went into the toilet due to government con-artists and the IMF) in the early 2000s. In fact the camera often looks like it is peaking around corners at its anti-heroes as they spin their dazzling display of dialogue on the streets of Buenos Aires. However, the movie is about entertainment first, politics a very, very distant second.
Things build up like a top which gets spinning so fast, you are never sure who is conning whom, and who is in on it and who is not. Nevertheless, Bielinsky manages to craft detailed characters who are fully fleshed, despite the fact that they exist in a world so full of deceit, it could fall down any second, like a house of cards.
Ricardo Darín (one of the giants of Argentinean Cinema) is particularly good as the experienced and incorrigable scam artist who would take his own family for a ride. He has such a world-weary presence that you want the guys schemes to work, even though he is a world-class jerk. He's like a down-and-dirty spanish counterpart to Joe Mantegna in David Mamet's House of Games, a film to which Nine Queens owes a lot. It is the fine performances and the vérité look of the film which prevent the elaborate story from ever riding off the rails. The conclusion is actually satisfyingly simple after all the running, faking, posturing and hustling.
Nine Queens has turned out to be a real ground-breaker for the country. One has only to look at the trailer for Fabián Bielinsky's next Film (El Aura) and even more-so, Marcelo Piñeyro's The Grönholm Method to see that Argentina is now dominating the genre. The fact that Hollywood remade Nine Queens in 2004, with John C. Reilly, Diego Luna and Maggie Gyllenhaal, (re-titling it Criminal) further cements this is an analagous way that Hollywood has been pilfering it's Horror films from Japan for the past 4 years).

Indeed, Nine Queens is the real deal.

Tuesday Night, come out for a drink (or two) at 7:45 pm. Note the EARLIER Showtime at 8:00. (Yes, we're bumping up the start time a bit as an experiment, but you can say hi to the kiddies before their bed-time).


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