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Suzie Heartless / Phoenix 
Written by: on December 12th, 2008


Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 2008 (Suzie Heartless), USA, 1995 (Phoenix)
Director: Tony Marsiglia (Both Films)
Writer: Tony Marsiglia (Both Films)
Cast: Wendy McColm, Andrea Davis, Philip Hersh, Jake Nelson, Ivan Crasci, Angela Martinez, Wayne Edward Sherwood, Ray Calloway, Brandon Scott, Maureen St. Cyn, Walter St. Cyn, Steve Musallan, Mary Jane Paige, Francois Valenzuela, Michelle Aston, Capella Parrish (Suzie Heartless), Aisha Prigann, Sasha DeMarino, Mark Schultz, Morgana Rae, Ike Gingrich, Susan Hinshaw, Penny Ray (Phoenix)

DVD released: February 3rd, 2009
Approximate running time: 89 minutes (Suzie Heartless), 83 minutes (Phoenix)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Both Films)
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English (Both Films)
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Alternative Cinema
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.99


Suzie Heartless and Phoenix were written and directed by Tony Marsiglia who other notable films include Sinful and Chantal. Phoenix was originally released under the alternate title Ashes and Flames.

Suzie Heartless: A day in the life of a teenage prostitute named Suzie.

The plot for Suzie Heartless revisits themes the director Tony Marsiglia has covered in his previous films. The plot is told in a simple and direct way. Suzie’s journey and the events that lead to her downward spiral are not for the faint of heart. The story does offer some brief glimpses into her past and the life she left behind. Visually the film is shot in a documentary style. Another stylistic choice that this film makes is that there is no spoken dialog. Even though there is no spoken dialog the story is easy enough to follow.

This film’s greatest asset is an actress named Wendy McColm who has been cast in the title role of Suzie. Her fearless performance is the foundation that holds everything in the film together. So much of the film relies on her emotions and facial expressions to convey the events that are unfolding. Another notable performance in the film is Andrea Davis in the role of Suzie’s mother (this part was originally offered to Misty Mundae). Ultimately Suzie Heartless is not an easy film to digest with its deliberate pacing and bleak subject matter.

Phoenix: An attendant at the morgue becomes involved with a young woman who is trying to find her missing sister.

The plot for Phoenix has two sub plots which eventually fuse into one. The first story revolves around a young man who works at a mortuary. He is a sexually confused young man whose upbringing has left him disconnected from the opposite sex. He has a piece of wood with a nail at the top which he attaches women’s hair too. He takes this weird fetish up a notch when he makes love to the piece of wood and imagines that the wood is the women whose hair he has attached to it. The second story revolves around a young woman whose sister is missing. This woman comes from an abusive home were her after sexually abused her and her sister. These two sexually and socially defective individuals meet through a chance encounter. Together they search for the woman’s missing sister.

Visually Phoenix is beautifully photographed in black & white. Trying to image this film in color is impossible since the subject matter lends itself perfectly to black & white. Also the cinematography is flawless with inventive compositions and moody lighting. The two most memorable scenes are the young man who works at the morgue’s first encounter with a real woman and a dinner table scene where the young woman’s abusive father simulates masturbation with a burrito. All around all performances are very effective especially the film’s three leads Aisha Prigann, Sasha DeMarino and Mark Schultz. Ultimately Phoenix is a surreal drama that unflinching explores the darker sides of humanity.

The DVD:

Alternative Cinema presents Susie Heartless and Phoenix in anamorphic widescreens that frame image at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Suzie Heartless is a shot on digital video productions. The transfer looks very good with strong colors and black levels throughout. The transfer only flaw is that some images in the background come off looking overly soft. Phoenix was shot on 35mm and in black & white. The transfer has strong shadow detail and gray levels. Overall both transfers fare well all around.

Suzie Heartless comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital stereo mix. There is no spoken dialog in this feature. The music and effects are clear and at times robust. The audio sounds evenly mixed and it is free of any audio defects. Phoenix comes with one audio mix a Dolby Digital stereo mix in English. Dialog is clear and the audio sounds evenly mixed throughout. There are no problems with distortion or any other audio defects. Overall both audio mixes sound are in great shape.

Extras for Suzie Heartless include a deleted scene (2:27) and an extensive photo gallery (4:25) with fifty two images. The photo gallery plays like a featurette with music from the film playing in the background. The main extra for Suzie Heartless is an audio commentary with director Tony Marsiglia and producer Donna Kane. Extras for Phoenix include a thirty eight minute behind the scenes documentary that includes interviews with Aisha Prigann and Sasha DeMarino. The interviews with Aisha Prigann and Sasha DeMarino were recently shot for this DVD release, while the rest of the footage is shot while making the film. Other extras include an extensive photo gallery (4:06) with fifty one images. The photo gallery plays like a featurette with music from the film playing in the background. The main extra for Phoenix is an audio commentary with director Tony Marsiglia. The audio commentaries for each feature are detailed and informative. Overall Alternative Cinema give Suzie Heartless and Phoenix their most definitive DVD releases, highly recommended.

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