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George Hickenlooper, 1963 – 2010

"Award-winning director George Hickenlooper, cousin of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, was found dead Saturday morning in an Uptown Denver apartment," reports Bruce Finley in the Denver Post. "The Los Angeles-based filmmaker was in Denver for the screening of his latest film, scheduled to be shown Thursday at the Starz Denver Film Festival." The paper's Curtis Hubbard: "John Hickenlooper has a bit part in his cousin's latest movie, and the pair were scheduled to attend the premiere together Thursday night at the film festival. Casino Jack features Kevin Spacey as disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. 'Shock and sadness do not begin to describe our emotions. We are devastated,' John Hickenlooper said in a statement.... The 2010 Starz film festival, which begins Wednesday, 'will be dedicated in its entirety to our friend George Hickenloopper,' festival director Britta Erickson said. 'This is a terrible loss. He was a great, great friend to us and our hearts go out to his friends and family.'"

"Hickenlooper was an independent filmmaker par excellence, struggling to get movies his way even if they were out of sync with the Hollywood fashion," writes the Los Angeles Times' Steven Zeitchik. "His best known work, Hearts of Darkness, which took a compelling behind-the-scenes look at the shooting of Apocalypse Now documented some of those same struggles, while his 2006 Andy Warhol-Edie Sedgwick movie Factory Girl examined the troubled souls and diverse company of an artist. He also directed the documentary Mayor of the Sunset Strip, about pop impresario Rodney Bingenheimer, and the feature drama The Man From Elysian Fields, about a novelist who threatens to crack under various pressures." Zeitchik recalls speaking with Hickenlooper at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, when the filmmaker told him, "As a storyteller I want my films to entertain — what is it Louis B Mayer said, 'if you want to send a message, call Western Union?' — but I do want them to be worldly and relevant. I'm fascinated by failure, and I'm fascinated by finality. Shakespeare's historical plays are more universal than his comedies because they relate to the finality of life. Without finality, life would not be beautiful."

For the February 2010 issue of Bright Lights Film Journal, Steve Johnson interviewed Hickenlooper, whose "life on film began shortly after his graduation from Yale in 1986 with Picture This, a documentary on the making of Texasville, Peter Bogdanovich's sequel to his own groundbreaking 1971 feature, Last Picture Show. So began an association with the architects of what Hickenlooper has asserted in his 1991 collection of interviews, Reel Conversations, was the last Golden Age of Hollywood filmmaking. Since then he has gone on to profile on film other such figures as Dennis Hopper, Monte Hellman and, with co-director Fax Bahr, Francis Ford Coppola... Not content with mastering one form, Hickenlooper has also written and directed a series of fiction films of increasing technical and narrative sophistication in a variety of genres, from Grey Knight (variously also known as Ghost Brigade and The Killing Box) in 1992 to the short film on which Knight co-star Billy Bob Thornton's breakthrough feature Sling Blade was based, Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade, in '93. There followed the post-collegiate drama The Low Life in '95, the crime thriller Persons Unknown the following year, and his take on Bogdanovich territory, Dogtown, the next. In 2001 he released both an adaptation of the unproduced Orson Welles political thriller The Big Brass Ring, and a romantic comedy in the Lubitsch vein, The Man from Elysian Fields."

"What impresses most about Mr Hickenlooper," wrote Walter Chaw, introducing his interview for Film Freak Central in 2003, "is his knowledge of film history and respect for the auteur theory." He found Hickenlooper "whip-smart, wounded by experience, and disarmingly direct."

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