Suture and The Deep End (a Double Feature Review)

Suture (1993) R ***

The Deep End (2001) R ** ½

These two noirs complement each other in curious ways.

Suture, shot in carefully detailed dreamlike black and white, works with archetypal noir themes of doppelgangers, amnesia, and betrayal, but filmmakers Scott McGehee and David Siegel are interested in heightened style that borders on the experimental, not conventional storytelling. Like Psycho, it begins in Phoenix, Arizona, where Clay (Dennis Haysbert) arrives to meet his half-brother Vincent (Michael Harris). Both men comment on their striking physical resemblance. No mention is made of the fact that Clay is black and Vincent is white. Actually, Clay’s skin color is never noted by any of the characters. The film isn’t about race; the shades and textures of Haysbert’s face are part of the overall production design, as important as the costumes and props. Clay is often dressed in white clothes and much of the action takes place on glowing white sets. The pace is slow and so is most of the physical action. Haysbert’s stillness is matched by measured line readings, most notably the explanatory psychiatric mumbo-jumbo. As for the plot… well, in the end it almost makes sense.

In The Deep End, McGehee and Siegel use the colors blue and red the way they used black and white in the first film. The story concerns a mother (Tilda Swinton) whose teenage son is frequenting a gay nightclub and is being threatened by the proprietor (Josh Lucas). Again, what happens is less important than the look of the film. Lake Tahoe and Reno locations are presented in deep, heavily saturated colors. Sound effects and images of water are given the same exaggerated treatment. The star’s striking appearance (red hair, blue eyes) and intensity have seldom been used so effectively.

I should note that some viewers (including Max) have found the film homophobic. I disagree. And some viewers may be disappointed in the ending, but for me, it worked. Both films stood up well on a second viewing.

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