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Further Phoenix
at Rio's Attic:

Dogfight

Silent Tongue

The Thing Called Love

Stand By Me

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Talbot Roe

Prescott Roe
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix

"Tâchons d'entrer dans la mort les yeux ouverts..."

"Let us try, if we can, to enter death with open eyes..."

What is the worst thing I could write of River's death? Oh, it's very simple and it has just a small difference, few words, from any other death.

"When River's heart stopped beating because of an overdose of drugs and stopped sending blood to his brain, River's brain lacked oxygen and stopped functioning. River died. He no longer exists."

All I can say is that I'm troubled to think that River's death made him different from what he was before and it increased his appeal to us, the living. But it's true. What would have happened if he had gone on living? We would go on liking a nice young man and liking a very good actor, following his progresses in both categories, like ...no, no other name.

Maybe he would have stopped acting as the rumours had it. And he would have just disappeared. And he would have been a dear memory to people who would have grown older. A good young actor and a nice young man who just disappeared from the sets. And we would have not known really why and what he had become.

But he died. We know why. And all changed. I'm not sure I like the kind of hero or icon some have made of him. I'm not sure he deserves such a bad treatment. He refused strongly to be a symbol of anything and he apologised for the image of him that was built. And if we need symbols or models, there are plenty alive.

But he died. In those unacceptable circumstances. And that made him something really special. Not because he died of drugs on an ugly pavement late at night. But because his death made us discover that he really was somebody apart. That we loved him for what he was before his death. But at that time we didn't have a key to understand this feeling. His death was the key. Perhaps we wouldn't have had the opportunity, the time, the need to realize that if he had lived.

But he died. And we realise that even the circumstances and the reasons of his death were not bad enough for us to stop caring for him.

His death made me understand my own feelings toward him. Did it make the same to you?

Do we need death to understand people? Of course not for everybody. I have lost very close friends and I knew why they were dear to me before their death. River was more far away. We only knew what we saw in films, and that was a lot, what we could read, at random, in some papers or magazines and what we thought and dreamt about him and his life.

We were not very good thinkers or good dreamers, as it seems!

I'm not a believer. I think what he is now is just part of our planet as atoms. I envy the believers. They think his spirit is with us permanently or in a special place. For me, River stopped living because his heart stopped sending blood to his brain. And there is nothing of him anymore. But that is biology or physiology, no feelings.

His death gave us a responsibility and we love him even more for what now rests on us. Because now we are in charge. You, Rio's Attic, you especially are in charge. But we all are like you. You may think it is just a cliché? Try to find Silent Tongue, The Thing Called Love, Dogfight. Is it so easy? Try to find Stand By Me in original version in Paris to listen to his true voice. Try to find his name on the videotape box of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. What about his films in DVD? Are we going to lose him little by little?

River will go on existing as long as people will speak of him, of his beautiful lightness, of his unfinished youth, of his anxious look, of his strange life, of the effect he had on us.

We first saw a boy, a boy who attracted our attention for all the reason already said. And he grew up. And we followed him, interested by what we learnt about him. Not very often, once or twice a year. And he became that beautiful teenager, acting so well, so moving because so anxious when he looked around him. We discovered an intelligent boy who had beliefs about life. And we were overwhelmed by what he did in some movies and we knew this one was not like the others. We received a little of that grace.

I almost forgot him for several years after his death but he came back to me when I realised I was not alone caring for a little memory of him deep in me. And now I'm afraid he will not leave me in peace and I love that idea, as painful as it is.


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