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SUTURE (director/writer: Scott McGehee/David Siegel; cinematographer: Greg Gardiner; editor: Lauren Zuckerman; music: Cary Berger; cast: Dennis Haysbert (Clay Arlington), Mel Harris (Dr. Renee Descartes), Sab Shimono (Dr. Max Shinoda), Dina Merrill (Alice Jameson), Michael Harris (Vincent Towers), David Graf (Lt. Weismann), Fran Ryan (Mrs. Lucerne), John Ingle (Sidney Callahan); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Scott McGehee/David Siegel; Samuel Goldwyn; 1993)
“Stylish avant-garde experimental psychological thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Scott McGehee (“Bee Season”) and David Siegel (“Bee Season”) are codirectors, cowriters and coproducers of this stylish avant-garde experimental psychological thriller that is less concerned with solving a crime than questions of identity.It’s totally absurd but nevertheless diverting as a cleverly stitched together black-and-white shot pic, that has a black actor being accepted as a white actor and no one seeming to notice. Though hardly believable and despite all its attempts to look scholarly, it’s merely superficial entertainment that kept my attention throughout because it was so arresting and elegant.

Cold-hearted white rich boy Vincent Towers (Michael Harris) invites his secret black construction worker half brother Clay Arlington (Dennis Haysbert) to his estate in Phoenix. Vincent has met his brother Clay only once, and that was recently at their father’s funeral. The asocial loner Vincent put three bullets in his stroke victim father’s head and is the main suspect. Vincent uses a self-activated remote car bomb to explode the car with Clay in it. Clay is wearing Vincent’s clothes and has his ID papers on him. Clay survives the car-bomb, but suffers from amnesia and is mistaken for Vincent. The hospital assigns him to psychiatristDr. Max Shinoda (Sab Shimono), whose office walls have giant Rorschach displays and who tries to restore his patient’s memory by Freudian analysis and quotes the poet Auden: “Learn from your dreams what you lack.” Plastic surgeon Dr. Renee Descartes (Mel Harris) gives Clay a new face, plenty of moral support and falls in love with her sensitive patient. Meanwhile Lt. Weismann (David Graf) has his men follow the patient and tries to get Mrs. Lucerne (Fran Ryan), an elderly woman wounded in the attack on Vincent’s father, to identify the recovering patient in a police lineup.

Clay enjoys his new luxury life, acceptance into high society and romance with the ideal woman, and is struggling to find out who he really is when he shoots the real Vincent Towers in his face when he returns to finish him off. It concludes with Clay learning his real identity but deciding to carry on being Vincent Towers. We’re told this is a mistake, that he will thereby never travel on his own path and only achieve a false happiness.

Aside from how absurd the storyline is, this is still an intelligent, witty and imaginative film noir, one that can’t easily be dismissed despite being so goofy. It works as long as the viewer and filmmakers don’t take the lighthearted material seriously.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”