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Dark Blood: River Phoenix’s Last Movie Will Finally Try To Rise From The Ashes

By Jay Stevens, Jr. | Think Pieces | August 8, 2012 |

By Jay Stevens, Jr. | Think Pieces | August 8, 2012 |

When River Phoenix died in front on the Viper Room in 1993, many of us may not have known that at the time, Phoenix was currently shooting a movie in New Mexico called Dark Blood. The movie co-starred Judy Davis and Jonathan Pryce and was being helmed by French director George Sluizer. The production was only about 80 percent of the way completed with another 11 days of scheduled shooting when Phoenix passed.

Twenty years later, Sluizer has released a trailer of the film, which he has been editing for the last five months alongside Dutch post-production company Eyeworks. The goal of his efforts is to release some semblance of a completed film in time for the Netherlands Film Festival this coming September. He hopes that a restructuring of the story and creative editing measures can finally bring Phoenix’s last work to the silver screen.

There are so many questions that the trailer stirs up. Could you follow what the storyline might have been based solely on the trailer? Is the trailer’s vagueness brought on from the lack of footage or just from being poorly edited? Can the film really be completed with the limited footage they have? Can there be editing skills mad enough to make the film’s story work in any capacity? Or is this just a final piecemeal footnote in Phoenix’s tragic and short career?

Here’s the given plot for Dark Blood, but I’m not sure if it makes the trailer clearer or even more confusing.

Dealing with nuclear testing and its long-lasting deadly effects, the story portrays Boy, a young widower living in the desert at a nuclear testing site. Living as a hermit, he waits for the end of the world carving Katchina dolls that he believes have magical powers. While traveling on a “second” honeymoon across the Arizona desert, the car of the Hollywood jet-set couple (Pryce & Davis) breaks down. They are rescued by Boy, who holds them prisoners because he desires the woman and wants to create a better world with her.

Only time will tell what could be salvaged from footage two decades old. I did observe two things; the first being that Davis and Pryce looked so young, obviously because of how long its been since the film was shot. But the second observation is Phoenix looked so much more aged than his 23 years. I doubt that he was made up to look that way and I almost have to wonder if his appearance was any indication of his untimely fate. It will be interesting to see what could have been when it does finally screen.

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