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Nine queens (Nueve reinas)

Threat advisory: Elevated - Significant risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Early one morning, Marcos (Ricardo Darín) observes Juan (Gastón Pauls) successfully pulling off a bill-changing scam on a cashier and then getting caught as he attempts to pull the same trick on the next shift. Marcos steps in, claiming to be a policeman, and drags Juan out of the store. Once they are back on the street, Marcos reveals himself to be a fellow swindler with a game of much higher stakes in mind, and he invites Juan to be his partner in crime.

A once-in-a-lifetime scheme seemingly falls into their laps - an old-time con man enlists them to sell a forged set of extremely valuable rare stamps, the nine queens. The tricky negotiations that ensue bring into the picture a cast of suspicious characters, including Marcos' sister Valeria (Leticia Brédice), their younger brother Federico (Tomás Fonzi) and a slew of thieves, conmen and pickpockets. As the deceptions mount, it becomes more and more difficult to figure out who is conning whom.

Persons of interest

  • Ricardo Darín .... Marcos
  • Gastón Pauls .... Juan
  • Leticia Brédice .... Valeria
  • Tomás Fonzi .... Federico
  • Pochi Ducasse .... Tía
  • Luis Armesto .... Mozo Bar
  • Ernesto Arias .... Encargado Bar
  • Amancay Espíndola .... Mujer Ascensor
  • Isaac Fajm .... Kiosquero
  • Jorge Noya .... Anibal
  • Óscar Núñez .... Sandler
  • Fabián Bielinsky .... Screenwriter
  • Fabián Bielinsky .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

  • Nine queens (Nueve reinas) official movie site
  • Nine queens (Nueve reinas) movie trailers:
    • QuickTime
  • Awards and film festivals:
    • Argentinean Film Critics Association 2001: Best film, Best actor (Ricardo Darín), Best supporting actress (Berenguer), Best director, Best original screenplay, Best cinematography, Best editing
    • Biarritz international Festival of Latin-American cinema 2001: Best actor (Ricardo Darín, Gaston Pauls)
    • Bogotá film Festival 2001: Best director
    • Lleida Latin-American Film Festival: Audience award, Best director
    • MTV Argentina 2001: People's choice
    • New York Museum of Modern Art 2000: New directors/new films series
  • A conversation with Fabián Bielinsky
  • See also Criminal
  • NB: Spanish language dialogue with English language subtitles
  • Studios and distributors:
    • Niche

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Dishonour among thieves.

Stingers.

Cons.

Nine queens is a Spanish language crime flick woven around the mistrust between two men: one bad and the other worse. There is a reverse honour to the whole thing (once you find out who the stinger is and who the stingee) but the point of the film is to let yourself be taken on a ride while the characters take each other for a ride. If you're clever you'll figure it out before they tell you whodunit (I did but I'm clever) but it's just as rewarding if you can't: it's the same as trying to do crosswords (you'll understand if you do them).

Ricardo Darín and Gastón Pauls make a great couple (oddly reminiscent of Ondrej Vetchý and Krystof Hádek in Dark blue world), a contrast in age, experience and temperament. They play off each other like oil and water stuck in the same bottle: you know who should come out on top but you can't guarantee it.

There's nothing outstanding about this film but it is easily worth the price of admission. If you liked The Spanish prisoner, you'll love Nine queens.

Security censorship classification

M (Medium level coarse language, low level violence)

Surveillance time

114 minutes (1:54 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 26 September 2002

Cinema surveillance images

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A conversation with Fabián Bielinsky

Can you talk a little about your influences?

I've always felt a particular predilection for narrative cinema that's strongly based in the story being told. I don't believe that it is the only way to approach a film but, without a doubt, it is the approach that always gives me the most pleasure. Ford, Hawks, Wilder, Hitchcock are some of the many directors that fascinate me as a viewer, that give life to this pleasure. It was my intent to recreate that sensation in my first experience as a director. Pleasure is a good place to start when making a film.

Can you discuss your writing process on this film? Is it difficult to create suspense?

I have never approached scriptwriting with a definitive idea or a specific genre in mind. I did not decide if it would be about suspense, or comedy, or politics beforehand. I was interested in the setting, the characters, and the lie as a way of relating. Everything else came from the writing process itself, from the story's own development. A story about swindlers generates tension on its own, which has more to do with the activity itself, than with intending to create suspense.

How do you go about setting traps for your characters and for your audience?

I like to use the manipulation of the audience as a way of creating a connection with them. And judging by the reaction to Nine queens, the public seems to like it as well. Nevertheless, I don't believe that manipulation is the only tool that a director has, and I am anxious to explore new ways of connecting with the audience, that perhaps don't depend so much on surprise.

How did you research the world you wrote about? Where did the idea for Nine queens come from?

I have been interested in the idea of the street swindler my whole life. The idea of delinquents that, instead of using weapons, use their ingenuity and subtle psychological mechanisms to get over on their victims - it always seemed to me to be an extraordinary space within which to tell a story. I sifted through a lot of material before I decided to write the script but, when I began the definitive research, the surprise was that most of the information came from the victims. Everyone had something to tell me - almost everyone had in their experience (or in that of their friends or relatives) an anecdote or story in which someone attempted to swindle them. I held onto all of that material, and it was a great help in developing the story.

Was the idea for Nine queens something you had been working on for a long time, or did you come up with the idea when you heard about the screenwriting contest at Patagonik Film Group?

I wrote the script for myself, and for two years I tried to find a producer who would make it, but I couldn't find anyone. Then I heard about the contest (in which 350 scripts were entered) - I was able to win, and they made the film.

If this film were staged in the United States of America, it would probably have guns, car crashes and explosions. You managed to create a gripping story without using any of those devices. Was that intentional?

This goes back to the same idea of the swindler who operates without violence (using psychological violence, but not physical). The absence of explosions and crashes wasn't intentional, but it wasn't necessary to connect the viewer with the story, or to generate a strong rhythm of narration. To add those elements would have been artificial, and luckily it wasn't necessary.

Why did you choose these actors for the film?

Because they have the basic energy of the characters they play. I find it very difficult to give direction to an actor if they don't have a basic connection, however subtle, with their character - and I believe this is the case with the principal protagonists in Nine queens.

What were the visual strategies that you employed in shooting Nine queens?

I made a very clear decision in that respect, before I began the film. I wanted all of the formal aspects to revolve around one coherent idea: to create a sensation of extreme realism, to sacrifice visual beauty in exchange for credibility. It seems to me that a certain artificiality of the story should be balanced with real images that are not overly embellished. To accomplish that, some of the scenes in the street were filmed by hiding the camera, in a way so that what you see around the characters are real people, with real attitudes, in the real street. I believe that we achieved something very close to what we wanted, thanks to the contribution of Marcelo Camorino, our director of photography, who understood a concept and genre of lighting design that is different from what is normally used, but very appropriate for this film.

Do you see this film as purely entertainment or, are you making some sort of social commentary about your country or about the world?

Those two things are mixed. I knew that, above all in my country, people were going to read the film as a commentary about the current social climate in which we are living. I always thought that the film, as a whole, reflected the animosity of people: the idea that we sometimes have that everything is a lie, that there is only corruption, that the law is every man for himself. But I always held clear that my priority was to tell a story, in the most agile, ingenious, entertaining way possible - and to arrive at something that the audience would take pleasure in watching. The best of all is that both intentions were clear to Argentine audiences - which they have thanked me for, by being able to enjoy themselves while looking at a mirror in which they see themselves reflected.

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