Nine Queens

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(Redirected from Nueve reinas)
Nueve reinas
Two men run with the backdrop of an Argentine city behind them. The bottom tagline reads the film's title and casting credits.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFabián Bielinsky
Written byFabián Bielinsky
Produced by
  • Cecilia Bossi
  • Pablo Bossi
Starring
CinematographyMarcelo Camorino
Edited bySergio Zóttola
Music byCésar Lerner
Production
companies
Distributed byBuena Vista International
Release date
  • August 31, 2000 (2000-08-31) (Argentina)
Running time
114 minutes[1]
CountryArgentina
LanguageSpanish
BudgetUS$1.3 million[2]
Box office
  • AR$7 million (Argentina)[3]
  • US$12.4 million (International)[4]

Nueve reinas (transl.Nine Queens) is a 2000 Argentine heist film written and directed by Fabián Bielinsky. It stars Ricardo Darín, Gastón Pauls, and Leticia Brédice. In the film, con artists Marcos (Darín) and Juan (Pauls) unexpectedly team up to sell counterfeit rare stamps to a wealthy foreign collector.

Nueve reinas was theatrically released in Argentina on August 31, 2000, by Buena Vista International. The film received praise for its screenplay, Bielinsky's direction, acting performances, and its tone; it is considered an Argentine film classic. Nueve reinas was a commercial success, grossing $12.4 million worldwide.

In 2022, it was selected as the 10th greatest film of Argentine cinema in a poll organized in 2022 by the specialized magazines La vida útil, Taipei and La tierra quema, which was presented at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival.[5] Also in 2022, the film was included in Spanish magazine Fotogramas's list of the 20 best Argentine films of all time.[6]

Plot[edit]

In the early hours, con artist Juan successfully scams a cashier at a convenience store, and is apprehended by the staff as he attempts the same scam on a different cashier. Fellow con artist Marcos feigns being a police officer and takes Juan away from the store. Marcos requests Juan be his partner for the day, saying his has recently disappeared. Although reluctant, Juan agrees because his father, also a con man, is in jail and requires $70,000 to bribe a judge at his hearing.

Later that day, the pair are presented an elaborate and lucrative scheme when Sandler, Marcos' elderly former associate, contacts him to help sell the "Nine Queens", a counterfeit sheet of rare stamps, to Vidal Gandolfo, a wealthy Spanish collector staying at the hotel where Marcos' sister, Valeria, works. Vidal will be deported from Argentina the following day due to corruption charges.

Vidal meets with Marcos and Juan. Lacking sufficient time to properly authenticate the stamps, Vidal hires an expert who confirms their validity. Vidal offers $450,000 for the stamps, with the exchange to take place that evening. Outside the hotel, the expert tells Marcos and Juan he knew the stamps were forged and demands a bribe. The fake stamps are then stolen out of Juan and Marcos' hands by thieves on a motorcycle who, unaware of their value, toss them into a river.

To salvage the scheme, Marcos and Juan approach Sandler's widowed sister Berta; her deceased husband owned the real stamps. She agrees to sell for $250,000. Marcos says he can put up $200,000 and asks Juan to contribute the remaining $50,000, but Juan becomes suspicious of Marcos since it is the exact amount of money he so far has saved. After visiting his father in jail, he ultimately agrees to the arrangement and the pair buy the real stamps.

Marcos and Juan return to the hotel to meet Vidal. After finding out Valeria is Marcos' sister, Vidal says he will now only buy the stamps if he is able to have sex with Valeria. Valeria agrees, and says her price for doing so is for Marcos to confess to their younger brother, Federico, that Marcos cheated both Valeria and Federico out of their family inheritance. After he does so, Valeria spends the night with Vidal.

The next morning, Valeria informs them that Vidal paid for the stamps with a certified check. On their way to the bank, an attempted mugging is revealed to be an attempted con by Marcos to cheat Juan out of his share; Juan reveals he hid the check and will hand it to Marcos as they reach the bank. Upon arrival, they see a crowd outside and learn the bank has failed due to fraud by the management, making the check worthless. Juan, looking disillusioned, walks away, while Marcos sticks around to see if he can find a way to still get the money.

Juan arrives at a warehouse, where he greets the motorcycle thieves, Vidal, Sandler, Berta, and Valeria, who is Juan's girlfriend – revealing that the real con was to swindle Marcos out of $200,000, as revenge for all the times he cheated his family and his partners.

Cast[edit]

  • Ricardo Darín as Marcos: An experienced con artist who leads a scam against Vidal Gandolfo with Juan.[7][8]
  • Gastón Pauls as Juan: A con artist who unexpectedly partners with Marcos.[8]
  • Leticia Brédice as Valeria: Marcos and Federico's sister and a hotel employee who is embroiled in a legal battle against Marcos for rights to their family inheritance.[8]

Additionally, Ignasi Abadal plays "Esteban Vidal Gandolfo", a rich, corrupt Spanish stamp collector.[9] Tomás Fonzi portrays Federico, Marcos and Valeria's younger brother.[10] Oscar Núñez and Celia Juárez portray Sandler and Mrs. Sandler,[11][12] while Elsa Berenguer appears as Berta, Sandlers's sister and a widow who sells the stamps.[13] Antonio Ugo, Jorge Noya, Alejandro Awada, Ricardo Díaz Mourelle, and Roberto Rey portray D'Agostino, Aníbal, Washington, Ramiro, and Texan, all local conmen who have worked with Marcos.[9][14] Leo Dyzen appears as the stamp expert.[9]

Production[edit]

Development and pre-production[edit]

Writer-director Fabián Bielinsky finished the screenplay for the film in 1997,[2] which he wrote in less than sixty days.[15] He based the script on real scams that happened to his family members and books about scams,[16] and aimed for it to have an objective point of view in order to maintain the logic of the film itself.[17] The script was initially titled Farsantes (transl. fakers),[15] but Bielinsky changed it as he considered it revealed too much of the story. He chose Nine Queens for its poker-related connotations.[16] Bielinsky had planned Nine Queens as part of a "conceptual trilogy", with each film focused on a different aspect of filmmaking. Nine Queens was the first installment focused on mise-en-scène, The Aura was focused on point of view, and the third film would have been focused on editing.[18]

He unsuccessfully tried to sell the script for over a year. According to Bielinsky, "producers didn't like it" as the Argentine film industry "isn't very fond of genre films."[2] In 1998, he submitted the script for a contest organised by production company Patagonik Films —one of the companies that rejected the idea— and was awarded first place out of 260 scripts submitted.[15][16] The project was stalled for almost two years after Bielinsky won the contest, as Patagonik had the film Clams and Mussels (2000) as a priority over Nine Queens.[16]

Marcelo Camorino joined the project as director of photography in February 2000.[16] The film would originally star Leonardo Sbaraglia as Juan and Gabriel Goity as Marcos. Sbaraglia had read the script a year and a half before it was produced and was already committed to filming Intacto (2001) by the time Nine Queens was to begin production. He left the project a month before filming began.[16] After Sbaraglia dropped out, the studio decided to cast Ricardo Darín instead of Goity.[19] Gastón Pauls joined the film shortly before the start of production.[16] Auditions were held for every role except for Pauls, Darín, and Leticia Brédice.[16] For the role of Vidal Gandolfo, the studio wanted to cast an Argentine actor who spoke a "perfect Spanish accent", but Bielinsky refused as he considered that would take audiences out of the film. Ignasi Abadal was ultimately cast in the role.[16]

Filming and post-production[edit]

Before filming was scheduled to begin, Bielinsky shot scenes for a week with Pauls, Darín, and a reduced crew as a "warm-up". They then had another week of pre-production before filming.[16] Filming lasted for seven weeks. A steadicam was used for over 30 days, which was expensive for the limited budget available.[16] The film was shot entirely on location,[16] using 35mm film.[20] Most scenes on the streets were filmed using hidden cameras, as the limited budget prevented the extensive amount of extras that were needed, in order not to have bystanders looking at the camera. As the actors were already famous, a small of group of extras was hired to surround them and prevent people to get close to them. To capture "the veracity of what happens on the street", the crew would film quickly for short stretches of time.[16] Bielinsky aimed for an "absolutely simple, transparent" mise-en-scène, contrasting the complexity of the plot.[17]

Marcelo Salvioli, the film's art director, initially expressed concern for the hotel scenes included in the script, as it would be difficult to find a location that would fit the requirements and that would allow them to use it. The hotel should "not have any nobility, it had to be a new American chain, a place where cheating prevailed". The Hilton Hotel in the neighbourhood of Puerto Madero was coincidentally being built. Producer Pablo Bossi was friends of one of the owners of the hotel and managed to get the location. Filming was often hindered by noises and disorder, as the hotel was under construction, as well as guests and unavailable rooms and spaces.[16] Filming at a bank also brought difficulties, as no banks would let the production film inside. The scene was eventually shot at a former bank on Avenida Corrientes that had gone bankrupt. Its use required a judge's authorization. Three lanes had to be closed for the scene, the gathering crowd was included in the film.[20]

The final scene at the warehouse was filmed twice. The scene was first filmed close to the end of filming. Bielinsky was unsatisfied with how the scene was shot, so about a week after the end of filming, while the editing process had already begun, the scene was reshot. The only shots from the first version were those of Vidal Gandolfo, as Abadal had already returned to Spain.[20]

Nine Queens was shot on film, transferred to digital and edited on Avid Media Composer. According to editor Sergio Zóttola, who had already edited over 50 films, it was "the first script I worked with that could not be touched. The moment you removed something a piece of information was lost and everything fell apart. It was so tight that nothing could be changed. It was brilliant."[20]

Release[edit]

Theatrical[edit]

The film had its avant premiere at the Cine América.[20] It opened wide in Argentina on 31 August 2000.[7] The film was screened at various film festivals, including the Mar del Plata International Film Festival in Argentina;[21] the Lima Film Festival in Peru;[22] the Bogotá Film Festival in Colombia;[23] the AFI Fest, the Telluride Film Festival, and the Portland International Film Festival in the United States;[24][25][26] the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada;[27] the Lleida Latin-American Film Festival in Spain,[28] the Fantasporto in Portugal;[29] the Biarritz International Festival of Latin American Cinema and the Cognac Festival du Film Policier in France;[30][31] the Fantasy Filmfest in Germany;[32] and the Oslo Films from the South Festival in Norway.[33]

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures acquired the distribution rights for Latin America, while Sony Pictures Classics bought the rights for North America and Lionsgate acquired them for the rest of the world.[34] The film was released in Brazil on 7 June 2001 and in Chile on 14 June.[35][36] It had a limited release in the United States on 19 April 2002.[37][38] It was released in Spain on 24 August 2001 and in France on 4 September 2002.[39][40]

Re-releases[edit]

In September 2023, the film was remastered in 4K with Dolby Digital sound by Patagonik to be screened at the 71st San Sebastián International Film Festival, with the involvement of the film's cinematographer Marcelo Camorino.[41]

In October 2023, FilmSharks acquired worldwide sales and remake rights to the film, following the expiry of Lionsgate International's rights, and began selling the 4K remaster of the film to independent distributors, including Eurozoom for France.[34] Star Distribution, which originally distributed the film in Latin America under its former name Buena Vista International, will re-release the remastered film theatrically across Latin America on February 22, 2024.[42]

Home media[edit]

Nine Queens was released on VHS format on 9 February 2001 and on DVD on 1 October 2002.[43][44]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

In Argentina, Nine Queens became the "movie hit of the year",[45] and the highest-grossing film in over ten years.[46] It was screened in 49 theaters and had 64,027 spectators in its first four days.[47] In its third week in theaters, it surpassed the 300,000 spectators.[48] It ended its theatrical run with a box office gross of 7 million pesos and over 1.5 million spectators,[3][49] becoming the biggest local film of 2000,[50] and the third film overall, only surpassed by American films Dinosaur and Mission: Impossible 2.[50] Nine Queens remained in the top ten throughout the rest of the year.[47] Internationally, the film earned earned over US$2 million in Spain, US$1.25 million in the U.S., and over 1.5 million euros in France, as well as almost US$1 million in England and 18 million Chilean pesos in Chile.[3][36]

Critical response[edit]

Nine Queens garnered mostly positive reviews from film critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 92% approval rating based on 95 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The site's consensus reads: "Deliciously twist-filled, Nine Queens is a clever and satisfying crime caper."[51] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 80/100 based on 30 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[52]

Roger Ebert, in his review of Nine Queens for the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film a score of three out of four stars, commending its screenplay and calling the film "an elegant and sly deadpan comedy."[8] Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune awarded the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, and called it "One of the most clever, most enjoyable thrillers in years."[53] Orlando Sentinel film critic Roger Moore gave the film four stars out of five, writing, "the laughs are dark, the puzzle steadily more engrossing and the surprises, just like Heist, are doozies, up to the finale."[54] Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle also gave the film a positive review, writing: "Fast-paced and unerringly surprising, Nine Queens is nicely performed by a large cast [...] David Mamet plowed this con-the-con turf in Heist, House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner, but Bielinsky, in his directing debut, makes it seem sassy and reinvented."[55]

Geoff Pevere of The Toronto Star wrote in his review of the film: "If Nine Queens draws you on a journey that eventually leads up a garden path toward your own suckerhood, it's all the more pleasurable for having done so with such slick expertise."[51] BBC film critic Tom Dawson called the film "a welcome addition to the genre" and a "taut thriller a powerful allegorical resonance."[56]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
AFI Fest 1–11 November 2001 International Competition Nine Queens Nominated [24]
Biarritz International Festival of Latin American Cinema 7 October 2001 Best Actor Ricardo Darín (tie) Won [30]
Gastón Pauls (tie) Won
Bogotá Film Festival 9–17 October 2001 Best Film Nine Queens Nominated [23]
Best Director Fabián Bielinsky Won
Audience Award Nine Queens Won [57]
British Independent Film Awards 30 October 2002 Best International Independent Film Nine Queens Nominated [58]
Fantasporto 22 February–3 March 2002 Best Screenplay Fabián Bielinsky Won [29]
Festival du Film Policier de Cognac 14 April 2002 Grand Prix Nine Queens Won [31][59]
Audience Award Won
Grande Prêmio do Cinema Brasileiro 12 September 2002 Best Foreign Feature Film Nine Queens Nominated [60]
Lima Film Festival 3–12 August 2001 First Prize, Audience Award Nine Queens Won [22]
Lleida Latin-American Film Festival 2001 Best Director Fabián Bielinsky Won [28]
Audience Award Nine Queens Won
Mar del Plata International Film Festival 15 March 2001 ADF Prize for Best Cinematography Marcelo Camorino Won [61][62]
17 March 2001 Audience Award Nine Queens Won [21]
Oslo Films from the South Festival 12–21 October 2001 Audience Award Nine Queens Won [33]
Sant Jordi Awards 9 April 2002 Best Foreign Actor Ricardo Darín (also for Son of the Bride) Won [63]
Silver Condor Awards 29 May 2001 Best Film Nine Queens Won [64][65]
Best First Film Nominated
Best Director Fabián Bielinsky Won
Best Actor Ricardo Darín Won
Best Supporting Actress Elsa Berenguer Won
Best Original Screenplay Fabián Bielinsky Won
Best Original Score César Lerner Nominated
Best Cinematography Marcelo Camorino Won
Best Art Direction Marcelo Salvioli Nominated
Best Editing Sergio Zóttola Won

Remakes[edit]

After Nine Queens was released in the United States, several American studios started talks with Bielinsky to produce a remake.[66] In 2023, Warner Bros. bought the film rights for the production company Section Eight founded by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh for a reported figure around US$1.5 million. The film, titled Criminal (2004),[67] was directed by Gregory Jacobs and written by Jacobs and Soderbergh.[68] The film was a commercial failure and only received a direct-to-DVD release in Argentina.[66][69]

Nine Queens was also used as a basis for three Indian films: the Bollywood film Bluffmaster! (2005), the Malayalam film Gulumal (2009) and the Telugu film All the Best (2012).[69]

In October 2023, FilmSharks acquired distribution rights for the film, along with format rights for a spin-off TV series.[34]

References[edit]

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