1993. Directed by Scott McGehee & David Siegel.
A minimalist neo noir that flirts with the morality of memory, Suture is a black and white psychological thriller that separates the classical archetypes of good and evil through the use of color. From afar, Suture plays like an art house piece on identity and racial consciousness, however, its spartan atmosphere uses the representations of colors to subvert these concepts, delivering a cyclical story on the nature of consciousness.
Clay is a blue collar worker who is invited to visit with his half brother, Vincent, after the murder of their father. The two brothers are nearly identical, and Vincent uses this to his advantage, faking his own death by blowing up his car while Clay is driving and ensuring that Clay is identified as him. Clay miraculously survives the explosion, but with amnesia. He begins to undergo rigorous psychological treatment while the police clamor for explanations into the father’s death. As Clay slowly begins to understand his predicament, he falls in love with one of his therapists and Terence returns to the family’s palatial estate, looking to silence Clay once and for all.
Dennis Haysbert stars as Clay, while Michael Harris portrays Terence. The directors chose to use a black actor for Clay and a white actor for Terence, making the entire narrative design appear to be a statement on race, but as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that this was done to set the two characters completely apart. Aside from the last few lines, most of the story remains grounded in Clay’s ordeal with him instantly accepting his new persona while slowly beginning to realize that something is wrong. This is a slick film that takes great pains with stylistic choices, valuing cool aesthetics in place of depth. There are several uncomfortably hilarious scenes, with Clay being the only black man in a lineup taking the crown. Suture knows exactly what it is doing, and its constant decision to stay focused on the mystery rather than the social implications is what makes it work.
Mette Hansen’s costume design is pivotal. Clay, begins in a flannel and denim, but as he accepts his role as Terence, he switches to crisp white suits, fully symbolizing his true nature. Terence abandons the white garb in the final sequence, opting for coal black attire that mimics his heart. The attention to detail shines in virtually every scene, with Greg Gardiner’s blissful cinematography winning top honors at Sundance, capturing the action with Hitchockian emulation. There are gorgeous wide shots of mysterious Arizona buildings, one of which is an abandoned bank, brilliantly decorated by Nancy Wenz to appear as a lonely stronghold of decadence.
Steven Soderbergh viewed an early cut and came on board as an executive producer. McGehee and Siegel’s outstanding script pilfers from Frakenheimer and Teshigahara casually evoking deeper concepts but never fully committing. This is a noir film, through and through, and it’s this conceit that is perhaps the film’s greatest weakness. The racially motivated casting is purely to create division between “hero” and villain.
Available now on an outstanding blu ray transfer from Arrow Video, Suture is a unique independent thriller. Taking an overdone premise and using color to visually remodel the Cain and Abel parable into a slick neo noir that brims with attitude. If you’re looking for something unique that doesn’t overshadow it’s story with deafening symbolism, Suture is an excellent choice.