Writer-director of Nine Queens
The con-men drama Nine Queens may have become a resounding box-office and critical success in Fabian Bielinsky’s native Argentina, yet the writer-director still struggled for nearly two years to find any backers for his intricately plotted screenplay. It was eventually financed because Bielinsky won a script competition sponsored by a production company.
‘People told me they wanted to do something more commercial,’ explains the 40-year-old filmmaker. ‘Before Nine Queens, if you wanted to make money with your film in Argentina, you had to do some sort of stupid comedy with famous television actors. Nine Queens proved that you can do a personal film with no stars and no comedy, and you can make lots of money and get good reviews.’
Unfolding over the course of 24 hours in bustling, down-town Buenos Aires, Nine Queens follows two small-time swindlers, Marcos (Ricardo Darin) and Juan (Gaston Pauls), as they attempt to pull off the deal of a lifetime: the sale of a forged set of stamps from Weimar Germany to a businessman who’s being extradited to Venezuela.
‘I started out with the universe of the con- artists in Buenos Aires,’ says Bielinsky of his cunning script. ‘I also compressed the time- frame into just one day, because I wanted to make things easier for myself and to have less choices. Then I decided to concentrate on these two guys, one who is the master and one who is the pupil. And then I followed them from scene to scene, it was almost as though I was watching
them: I only discovered the structure when I’d finished the writing.’
Cinema, of course, has always been suited to telling stories about con-artists - think of the likes of The Grifters, The Usual Suspects and The Spanish Prisoner - perhaps because the medium itself is based on illusion and deception. And for Berlinsky being a director is about ‘manipulation and misinterpretation’.
‘There is no way of not being manipulated as a spectator,’ he continues. ‘lt’s a question of degrees. If you use a close-up you are preventing the audience from seeing anything else: you are deciding what information is coming to the audience.’
Filmed using hand-held (and sometimes
Allegorical resonance for Argentinean economy
hidden) cameras on the streets of Buenos Aires, Nine Queens has an impressive immediacy and authenticity, which helps viewers, reckons Bielinsky, ‘to accept the artificial aspects of the plot’. And given the catastrophic disintegration of the Argentinean economy in recent months, the film has acquired a powerful allegorical resonance. ‘I knew I was making a social comment on society,’ admits the director. ‘But I wasn’t saying that all my countrymen are crooks and con-men. I wanted to convey the feeling that everybody is cheating and lying, and that nobody is telling the truth. I was talking about a mood.’ (Tom Dawson)
I Nine Queens plays Cameo. Edinburgh from Fri 72 Jul. See review. page 39.
CHILDRENS' SCOOBY-DOO (cert tbc) 87min 0.
Tribute and send-up
Zeinks! The sixties and seventies nostalgia boom continues With yet another big-screen version of a fondly remembered kids' TV show. So far the live-action films made from the era's cartoon series have been less than spectaCUlar. Will Scooby-Boo prove to be a mutt? Or will the Craven canine show that he's top dog?
Scooby the move starts well. pitching itself somewhere between tribute and send-up of the Hanna-Barbera show. The casting is astute: celebrity c0uple Freddie Prinze Jr and Sarah Michelle Gellar as vain Fred and perennial damsel-in- distress Daphne: Linda Cardellini as Velma. the bespectacled brainiac in orange rollneck sweater and matching knee- socks: and. best of all. Matthew Lillard as stoned slacker Shaggy. Even the computer-generated Scooby himself isn‘t lacking in charm.
We find the otiintet in mid- chase. up to their necks in peril as they seek to solve the Luna Ghost mystery. The adventure
concludes in typical fashion — the Villain is unmasked and led away in handCuffs muttering the time-honoured refrain: ‘I could have gotten away With it. if it hadn't been for yOu meddling kidS.'
But Fred offends his friends by hogging the limelight and the Mystery lnc gang splits up. Fred
becomes a motivational speaker.
Velma goes to work at NASA. and Daphne learns marital arts la nod to Gellar's Buffy rolei. Only Shaggy and Scooby keep the old spirit alive. camping but together in their psychedelic van. the Mystery Machine.
They are reunited two years later. however. after being lured individually to Spooky Island. a theme park cum resort owned by Rowan Atkinson's slippery Emile Mondavarious. Who or what. he wants to know. is turning his teenage Visitors into vacuous zombies?
Mowes like this one. the Cynical will reply. For Scooby- Doo sadly fails to live up to the promise of its opening reel. Admittedly. the film's bold playpen colOurs are fun and there are some clever gags that will score With the show's pothead following. But the iokes soon wear thin. And if you th0ught that Thunderpants had hit bottom where fart iokes are concerned. Just get a whiff of Shaggy and Scooby's flatulence contest here. iJason Besti I General release from Fri 12 Jul. See feature. pages 14— re.
DOCUMENTARY DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS (15 tbc) 89min 00000
When the surf was down at Pacific Ocean Park Pier. the kids hit the streets of Dogtown. SOuthern California. on their primitive skateboards. Applying the same aggresswe performance an aesthetic to the concrete waves they found in disused SChool yards and drained out swimming pools. this group of street urchins (later to become the Zephyr Skateboard Team) inadvertently created a new field of athletic endeavour. This is their stOry. and if it doesn't have you on the edge of yOLi.r seat. you are sadly but officially dead.
So what makes Dogtown and Z—Boys so desperately exciting? It is a documentary feature. one that tracks the key events that led to the birth of the now ubiquitous 'modern vertical or 'vert' style of skateboarding. Maybe it's the way that director and original Z-Boy. StaCy Peralta. working with editor Paul Crewder. cuts together still photographs. vintage film footage and new intervrew material to four a fluid and vibrant narrative. Maybe it's the kick-ass punk rock soundtrack featuring the likes of Iggy and the Stooges. Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin that punctuates the StOry. giving energy and raw power to the low-slung skate style of the Z—Boys. Or maybe it's the genuinely engrossed narration from Sean Penn. the Hollywood actor who refused to take a fee for the project and nearly cried the first time he saw the footage.
lt c0uld. however. be the fact that Dogtown perfectly captures the fuck- off—and-die attitude that propelled twelve kids from the wrong side of town into the public consciousness. giVing ntany — but not all — team members fame and fortune in the process. Their lifestyle as well as their pioneering manoeuvres were. thanks to the photoiournalism of Craig Stecyk. an inspiration to wild boys the world ever and it's their boundless energy that screams from the screen making Degtown a truly invigorating experience.
So check your pulse before you check into Dogtown. If you're not dead. go ahead and remenber to check it again when you leave the auditoriuii‘. Trust me. it'll be geing like the (:lappei‘s. iCathei‘ine Bromlel,»
I Selected release from Fri :3 Jul.
Jul 2032 THE LIST 37