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Directed by Nina Menkes

United States 1991 77 mins. In English

A smoldering, crystalline portrait of an anonymous woman adrift in Las Vegas, Menkes’ newly restored noir-of-sorts stars her sister Tinka as a blackjack dealer bored with her job, life, and circumstance, but with nowhere to go and no options for escape. Depopulated landscapes, incessantly blinking lights, decaying buildings, and broken dreams make up the psychic space of her life and those who move, zombie-like, around her. A precise and hypnotic film, one of Menkes’ finest and an unsung gem of the American cinema of the 1990s, Queen of Diamonds questions the magnetic lure of the desert oasis, pulling back the curtain to reveal a shimmering nightmare. “Queen of Diamonds shares not only the formal sophistication and structural rigor of Barbara Loden’s Wanda (1970) and Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman (1975) but also their themes: female alienation and the ways that passivity, muteness, and a refusal to engage can serve as forms of resistance to patriarchal oppression. Ironically, these same themes helped to eclipse the three works—and many others like them—for too long.”—Sarah Resnick, 4Columns.

Appears in: Essential Cinema