Dutch director George Sluizer dead at 82

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AMSTERDAM (AP) — George Sluizer, the Dutch filmmaker who directed River Phoenix's last movie, "Dark Blood," has died at age 82.

Organizers of the Netherlands Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival said Sluizer died Saturday "after a long illness," but did not specify the cause of death. Sluizer suffered from arterial disease and narrowly survived a tear in his aorta in 2007 — one of the reasons he decided to resume editing "Dark Blood."

In a career that spanned five decades, Sluizer's most celebrated work was probably the 1988 thriller "Spoorloos," or "The Vanishing," about a man's quest to find out what happened to his girlfriend after she disappeared without a trace during a stop at a gas station.

Sluizer said Stanley Kubrick had told him the film was the most frightening he had ever seen, and the two met to discuss editing techniques.

Sluizer directed a 1992 American remake of "The Vanishing" starring Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock and Kiefer Sutherland, but it was less successful, in part because the dark ending of the original was lightened.

"Dark Blood" was only two-thirds complete in 1993 when Phoenix, a rising Hollywood star, died of a drug-induced heart attack aged 23 in front of the Viper Club in Los Angeles.

The film was left untouched for years, but Sluizer saved it from destruction in 1998. After his brush with death in 2007, he began editing an altered version of the film, which aired five years later.

Sluizer was also a documentary maker and writer.

"We mourn the loss of a great filmmaker, who has been equally active in fiction and documentary film," said Dieter Kosslick, director of the Berlinale.

"With his passion for filmmaking and exceptional versatility, George Sluizer will live on in our memories forever."

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