Suture (McGehee and Siegel, 1993)

Suture is a fun movie, sometimes reminiscent of something by Saramago, other times cynically absurd played straight.

The plot concerns a man who fakes his own death by attempting to kill his brother. The catch is that one man – Clay  (Dennis Haysbert) – is black, while the other – Vincent (Michael Harris) – is white.


Yet no one seems to notice, nor comment on it. It’s not just the color of their skin, it’s that these guys actually look nothing alike. Whether this is social commentary in the vein of “we’re all the same anyway,” or good old winking preposterousness isn’t exactly clear. The film is played pretty straight.

It’s hard not to make comparisons to The Face of Another-

-or the Bogart/Bacall movie Dark Passage where the main joke is that when the bandages come off of Vincent Parry’s face…it’s Bogart underneath! Only this time Haysbert looks remarkably unchanged despite suffering a horrific accident:


Suture has some really pretty, very symmetrical frames:


Obviously it’s in black and white. That feels neither like gimmick nor transcendent choice. It fits (is it another joke: black and white cinematography just like our black and white main characters?), and if nothing else lends the film a noir-ish air (though most of it is high-key, opposite the classic noir trend).

The set design is pretty and modern. It’s a very clean feeling film, even when the frame it one of clutter:


I think that’s probably from the black and white, but also the rather planned balance. Like that frame above where the facade on the left balances out the mess on the right.

Suture isn’t exactly suspenseful, but it is fun, if for no other reason to see if anyone will admit (is that the right word?) to the obvious conceit on-hand. It’s also imaginative on what I imagine is a fairly modest budget. Here’s one of my favorite sequences. Vincent and Clay have parted ways at the beginning of the movie. Vincent calls Clay on his car phone. We get this ECU, with a pan and tilt down to Vincent hitting the # button (this all feels very Blood Simple):

A cut to a tracking shot under a car finding the bomb:

And then a great cut. How do you do a convincing explosion with blowing something up? How about something akin to a graphic match (with a convincing sound bridge)? We get a TV screen explosion-


-and then the camera slowly pans and tracks away. We aren’t quite sure where we are at first (is this a time cut?):

Off of the TV, past shoes and the shoe-shiner. Up past the window where we start to get our bearings, before landing on Vincent:

He walks off and the camera pans and tracks with him into a wide-shot:

It’s clearly not Clay’s car that blew up on the airport TV screen. It’s just a movie moment bit of serendipity. That slight bit of confusion (Why are we looking on a screen? Where are we?) is cleared up soon enough, and it gives us just enough time to think about what happened. It’s the opposite of a shock cut and really fits nicely into the mood here, which is more slow burning cynicism than biting thriller.



About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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