Nina Menkes – Queen of Diamonds

Nina Menkes’ Queen of Diamonds (1991) is the type of low-budget independent film possessed of great magnitude alongside the likes of Wanda (1970), Killer of Sheep (1978), and Daughters of the Dust (1991). Like those films, Queen of Diamonds has also been pulled from obscurity thanks to a new restoration by Arbelos[1]. Tinka Menkes—Nina’s sister—plays Firdaus, an alienated blackjack dealer in Los Vegas, Nevada. It wouldn’t be fair to say that the film trades substance for atmosphere. It contains both. Through long-takes and still camerawork, Nina captures the lurid desert and concrete of Vegas. In another scene, the camera peers over shoulders and between slot-machines to watch Firdaus deal blackjack. A parallel emerges between Firdaus and the machinery surrounding her, both engaged in routine. The environments not only speak for themselves but also externalize Firdaus’ psychology.

[1] Browsing their site, I noticed Arbelos has also remastered Nietzchka Keene’s The Juniper Tree (1990) which screened at the Metrograph earlier this year. There’s also Belladonna of Sadness (1973) and Funeral Parade of Roses (1969), as well as a 2K restoration of Andrew Bujalski’s Mutual Appreciation (2006) which is also currently streaming on MUBI. All highly recommended films.

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