Dirs. Scott McGehee & David Siegel, 1993
96 mins. English



Thanks to an immaculate restoration released by the UK’s Arrow Films, Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s SUTURE is getting a long-overdue moment in the sun. For ONE NIGHT ONLY, the filmmaking duo (who would go on to make THE DEEP END and WHAT MAISIE KNEW, among others) will join us at Spectacle for a rare presentation of their fascinating 1993 neo-noir debut.

Clay (Dennis Haysbert) and Vincent (Michael Harris) are brothers who meet for the first time on the occasion of their father’s funeral in Phoenix; despite the obvious physical differences of Haysbert and Harris, SUTURE’s characters make periodic mention of the uncanny resemblance between Clay and Vincent. Before long, Vincent has tricked his newfound brother into a forcible an identity swap: a carbombing sends Clay to the hospital, while Vincent hits the lam with his inheritance. Newly mistaken as “Vincent” – and, as it turns out, suspected of having murdered their father – Clay wakes up with no course of action but to sift the detritus of his own jittery recollections, and to track Vincent down to restore his rightful identity.

But what, precisely, is that identity worth? The process entails Clay retracing his steps to an analyst (Sab Shimono), whose Lacanian musings on memory and selfdom (or lack thereof) give the film its introductory thrown gauntlet. Clay-as-Vincent’s trajectory makes McGehee and Siegel’s colorblind casting more than merely high-concept (or ahead of its time): it’s an opportunity to see an entire world with suspended disbelief, a clueing-in for the audience that makes SUTURE’s Rorschachian asymmetry unnerving down to the tiniest detail. (Clay’s face is reconstituted by a doctor who describes it as if talking about Harris’: “roman nose, thin lips…”) Ultimately Clay is demarcated less by Haysbert’s skin color than by the class disparity between him and the people surrounding him, which makes for several fascinating meta-comments in the film’s screenplay.

That said: if not exactly classical, SUTURE is also a work of genre par excellence. Executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, it’s hard not to take McGehee and Siegel’s film in hindsight as a signal bearer for the path not taken by American independents in their supposed 90s heyday: SUTURE betrays unabashed allegiances to Surrealism, Hiroshi Teshigahara and Hitchcock, mounted by the filmmakers (with cinematographer Greg Gardiner) in unerringly lux compositions and insinuating, slow-burn crane movements. By the time Clay and Vincent’s respective concentric circles have come back around to lock, you’ll know you’re watching one of the most serpentine and thought-provoking noirs of the last quarter-century.