I still miss River Phoenix, he was an amazing talent and has done some awesome films My Own Private Idaho, Running On Empty, Explorers, Stand By Me just to name a few.
Susan is also a huge fan of River Phoenix and to celebrate the life of the actor she attended a q and a with George Sluizer who directed the final film Phoenix acted in.
Check out her full recap below!
Twenty years ago today, in the early morning hours of Halloween, actor River Phoenix died on the sidewalk outside The Viper Room in Hollywood. The film River was working was halted, as too many key scenes had yet to be filmed. After a 10 year legal battle over the footage director George Sluizer, who had become seriously ill, used his own funding to complete the film. The process itself took another 9 years and it was recently released to a handful of film festivals.
Two days before the 20th anniversary of River’s death, I had the privilege of seeing his final film, “Dark Blood,” at a special screening and Q&A. Sluizer used narration over the missing scenes. The movie would freeze frame as Sluizer himself read the missing scene straight from the script. He only needed to do so in 5 places and although a bit fragmented, the storyline was coherent. His solution was simple, but effective.
“Dark Blood” is about an unnamed character referred to only as Boy, played by Phoenix. He’s a young widower who lives a lonely existence after the death of his wife due to cancer following nuclear tests near their home in the desert. A Hollywood couple, Harry (Jonathan Pryce) and Buffy (Judy Davis) travel to the desert on a second honeymoon in an attempt to save their marriage. Their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and the couple is rescued by Boy. He holds them prisoner because of his desire for Buffy and his ambition to create a better world with her.
It’s a bit odd in parts, but the scenery, music, and actors definitely make watching it a worthwhile exercise. The performances are strong, particularly from Phoenix, who, in my opinion, looked healthy and fit unlike his previous film “The Thing Called Love” where he appeared ashen and empty.
Before the film, author Gavin Edwards did a book signing for “Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind”.
Of course, I got myself a copy, but have only just skimmed through the pages. I have every book ever written about Phoenix, before and after his death. Although the minor details about Phoenix’s fateful last night change from book to book, sadly, the ending is always the same.
After the film, there was a brief Q&A with director George Sluizer. Now 81 years old and in poor health, he was kind enough to answer questions and offer some insight to the entire project. It was sad to hear that no one in Hollywood had offered him assistance with completing the film, either financially or with the painstaking digital conversion process. Sluizer estimated that 70% of the film was completed, but one entire reel was damaged so badly it could not be used and another reel had been stolen and never recovered. Considering what he had to work with, the film is surprising watchable and intelligible. Phoenix’s last role may not have been his best, but his performance was both layered and mysterious.
SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!
It was extremely unnerving to watch Phoenix literally take his last breath on screen, as his character dies while lying down, omitting a strained exhale of air.
I felt very fortunate to see “Dark Blood,” feeling sadness and anger all at the same time. Such a waste of talent, of youth, of life itself.