Last night we attended the world premiere of The King of Hearts. Shown at the local high school, this noir thriller delighted the audience of maybe 150 enthusiastic attendees. It’s the first (and probably the last) feature-length production of Reel Films, a film company comprised of three high-school buddies. Filmed and acted entirely by students over the past year and a half, The King of Hearts was finished just in time for the scheduled showing on the last day of their last year in school.
The movie begins: It’s the dead of night, and a smartly-dressed young man carrying a violin case walks alone. We see another man standing outside a building which we, the locals in the audience, immediately recognize as the high school. A single shot rings out, and the second man slumps to the sidewalk at the front door to the school. Someone stands above the corpse. Casually he flips a playing card onto the lifeless body: the king of hearts. It’s going to be another tough case to crack for Jack Hunter, private eye. Here’s the trailer:
The creative force behind this movie, the writer, director and lead actor, is Benjamin White-Patarino. It was in the wee hours two Halloweens ago when the three moviemaking partners-to-be started goofing on the noir genre. The next day Benjamin got to work on a script. It’s easy to make a movie, he says: every day countless kids shoot a snippet of video and put it up on YouTube. It’s not so easy to make a feature film, with actors, editing, sound effects, city permits for firing guns in public outdoor locations. It’s even harder when everyone involved is going to high school. This wasn’t a school project, so it was a work of love and personal commitment from start to finish. And the kids (or their parents) had to eat the production costs — $500 total. After collecting $3 per head from the audience they must have broken even, or just about.
My daughter showed me a photo in her high school yearbook: it’s Benjamin, sporting coat, tie and fedora. “Born in the wrong decade,” reads the caption. Throughout his senior year Benjamin White-Patarino WAS Jack Hunter, private eye.
The closing credits scrolled up the screen and the audience broke into applause. A tuxedo-clad Benjamin called on stage everyone who acted a role in the movie and introduced them one by one. There was one notable absence: the girl who played femme fatale Claire LaRouge. At the end of the movie Jack stands heartbroken as Claire boards a train back to Chicago. Maybe that’s really where she went. As the cast basked in the accolades of an adoring public we headed out the door — the same door where the murder was filmed — and into the mild and harmless Boulder night.
In the fall Benjamin starts film school in New York. I wish him well.