“A movie worth thinking about”
Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s 1993 black and white crime drama with an art-house twist gets a dual format release courtesy of Arrow Films.
Construction worker Clay Arlington (Dennis Haysbert) is invited to the city to stay with his wealthy half-brother Vincent Towers (Michael Harris) after the two meet for the first time at their mutual father’s funeral. Clay has been led to believe it’s a weekend visit but actually Vincent plans to blow his brother up with a car bomb while he takes a one-way ticket out of there.
But it goes a bit wrong when Clay survives. The twist is that he was wearing Vincent’s suit and carrying Vincent’s cards so now everybody believes him to be his brother. As Clay tries to regain his memory after plastic surgery Lt Weismann (David Graf) is busy trying to prove that Vincent killed his own father. Events culminate when the real Vincent returns.
The above plot would make a reasonable story. Indeed, the plastic-surgery-post-trauma-leading-to-confused-identity plot has been used by all kinds of movies from Douglas Hickox’s BLACKOUT (1985) to Wolfgang Petersen’s SHATTERED (1991). But SUTURE has something no other film has. You see, much is made during the opening scenes of how Clay and his brother look similar, and this is also played upon heavily after Clay’s ‘accident’. But the thing is, while the world in which Clay and Vincent live believes them to be almost identical, the actors playing the two brothers could not look less alike.
And herein lies the genius of SUTURE, allowing it to work on levels other than a simple crime drama. In fact, if you’re expecting a straightforward treatment of the above plot you will be at best confused and at worst frustrated to the point of switching this off. Because the plot isn’t really the point. SUTURE is at least about two important things: the nature of identity and the nature of storytelling through film.
There is a significant scene towards the end where Clay says he believes himself to be Vincent because everybody keeps telling him that he is, which poses the question: what makes us who we are? Is it the internal part, the memories we have of our past, or is it the external - what everyone around keeps telling us we are?
But SUTURE also looks at how we watch film. We are told by everyone (including the two leads) that Vincent and Clay are nearly identical. Because two different-looking actors have been cast in the two roles, should that matter? If Harris has been cast because he better depicts the villainous Vincent and Haysbert because he has the warmer, more vulnerable persona, isn’t this just as artificial as having the two roles played by the same man but with one having a scar to make a distinction? Or wearing a black hat or a red shirt? As if to emphasise this, to drive that point home, SUTURE is filmed in stark black and white even though this is a film that is anything but - the ultimate in ironic screen storytelling.
Arrow’s disc also contains a commentary track from the film-makers and executive producer Steven Soderbergh, new interviews with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, a short film that’s a meditation on Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, trailers and a reversible sleeve. Another great Arrow release that will keep you thinking long after the credits have rolled.
Arrow are bringing out SUTURE in a dual format DVD and Blu-ray edition on Monday 4th July 2016