As wrenching as it is funny, "Late Marriage" is a portrait of family pressure. Tale of a 31-year-old student is marbled with laugh-out-loud situations. Dover Kosashvili's debut also features one of the more novel and dramatically innovative sex scenes to grace recent international cinema. An arthouse career beyond Israel and France seems assured.

As wrenching as it is funny, “Late Marriage” is a portrait of family pressure that makes “The Godfather” chestnut about “an offer he can’t refuse” look like pussy-footing prevarication. Tel Aviv-set tale of a handsome 31-year-old student whose Georgian parents are intent on finding him a suitable Jewish girl to wed despite the fact he has already found the love of his life is a scathing portrait marbled with laugh-out-loud situations. Dover Kosashvili’s helming debut also features one of the more novel and dramatically innovative sex scenes to grace recent international cinema. An arthouse career beyond Israel and France seems assured.

Zaza (Lior Louie Ashkenazi), who is pursuing a doctorate in philosophy, humors his zaftig, stonefaced mom Lili (Lili Kosashvili, the writer-director’s own non-pro mother), and his wiry dad Yasha (Moni Moshonov) as they drag him to meet virginal teens from good families who might make suitable spouses. Sticklers for Georgian tradition, his parents fly into a rage when they discover he’s carrying on seriously with a 34-year-old divorced Moroccan woman, Judith (Ronit Elkabetz), who has an adorable 6-year-old daughter, Madona (Sapir Kugman).

In a longish, utterly convincing bedroom scene, we witness Zaza and Judith’s superb sexual complicity built on deadpan humor and faux exasperation. By the tenets of human logic and movie logic, they belong together, but the tug of Zaza’s unyielding family is as indelible as the tides.

In a ferociously uncomfortable confrontation, Zaza’s extended family barges in at Judith’s small apartment to threaten Zaza into renouncing her. Other outstanding scenes include Lili’s solo visit to Judith, and Zaza’s profoundly bizarre thank-you speech to his father in a public restroom.

In addition to the horrors of family tyranny, interior design of older generation’s apartments is terrifying authentic in its garish bad taste. Pic also shines in its use of a pet dog — whose sympathies are unencumbered by centuries of judgemental tradition — as humorous punctuation. Kosashvili, who won a Cannes Cinefondation prize in 1999 for his short “With Rules,” makes the transition to features with an assured hand, layering the emotional blackmail with alacrity. For authenticity’s sake, Hebrew-speaking actors spent five months learning Georgian dialogue phonetically.

Late Marriage

Israel-France

Production

A Diaphana release (in France) of a Transfax Film Production (Israel) and Morgane Production (France) presentation in co-production with Israeli Film Fund, Keshet Broadcasting, Arte France Cinema and with support from the Fund for the Promotion of Israeli Film and CNC. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris) Produced by Marek Rozenbaum, Edgard Tenembaum. Executive producer, Udi Yerushalmy. Directed, written by Dover Kosashvili.

Crew

Camera (color), Dani Schneor; editor, Yael Perlov; music, Joseph Bardanashvili; art director, Avi Fahima; costume designer, Maya Barsky; sound (Dolby), Oleg Kaiserman, Nathalie Vidal; assistant director, Yochanan Kredo. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 17, 2001. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Zaza - Lior Louie Ashkenazi Judith - Ronit Elkabetz Yasha - Moni Moshonov Lili - Lili Kosashvili Madona - Sapir Kugman
With: Aya Steinovits Laor, Rozina Cambos, Simon Chen, Dina Doron, Leonid Kanevski, Livia Chachmon Ayaliy, Eli Turi, Maria Ovanov.
(Georgian and Hebrew dialogue)

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