Late Marrriage
(Hatuna Meheuret)
Starring: Lior Louie Askkenazi, Lili Kosashvili, Moni Moshonov, Ronit Elkabetz
Director:

Dover Kosashvili

Writing credits: Dover Kosashvili
Distributor: Magnolia Films s * 102 minutes
Rated: Not Rated
  (Israel 2002)

An interesting companion piece to the sitcom cotton candy that is MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING is LATE MARRIAGE (Hatuna Meheuret), the debut feature by Israeli director Dover Kosashvili. An angry, bitter, occasionally funny examination of the clash between family tradition and the realities of modern life, LATE MARRIAGE differs from the neat and tidy resolution of GREEK WEDDING in that Kosashvili's work holds a mirror up to real life in the Israeli Soviet Georgian emigre community -- and doesn't much care for what he sees.

Zaza (Lior Louie Askkenazi) is thirty-one years old and still unmarried, much to the chagrin of his Soviet Georgian immigrant parents. His mother, Lili (Lili Kosashvili, the director's mother) is a formidable creature, with jet-black hair and the body of an Israeli tank. His father Yasha (Moni Moshonov), understands his son's reluctance better than the latter thinks, but still wants to see him married to a young, virginal girl from a good family.

Like most Jewish parents, Zaza's parents their son is a great catch. He's a doctoral student, studying for a Ph.D. in philosophy. That he's a man on the shady side of thirty still living off his parents and carrying his father's credit card seems not to occur to them...or to him. Yasha and Lily have taken Zaza to meet over a hundred potential brides and their families, to no avail. Lacking the courage to say no, Zaza plays along with his parents' ritual, but manages to never find anyone quite right, because Zaza is already enamored of a completely unsuitable woman. Judith (Ronit Elkabetz) is strong, sexy, capitvating, and at 34 and divorced with a six-year-old daughter named =tokke= Madonna, completely unsuitable. Yet Judith is not as much of a secret as Zaza thinks. It seems that Yasha has not always been faithful, so he knows the lure of the unsuitable; yet understands the demands of tradition. Ultimately, Zaza must choose between respect for his heritage, no matter how irrational it may seem, or his equally irrational heart.

There is a kind of rueful, angry, ambivalent affection that suffuses Kosashvili's film. The film begins with one of those gruff-but-playful older couples bickering as the wife bathes the husband. They are incidental to the film, but give the impression that this will be a loving family comedy in the vein of Mira Nair's film. However, over the course of the film, a darker gloom takes over. As portrayed by Lior Louie Askkenazi, Zaza is the kind of tormented creature that in the U.S. is often played by Aidan Quinn, whom Askkenazi slightly resembles. When Ilana, the frighteningly confident 17-year-old knockout (Aya Steinovits Laor who's the latest prospect in whom his parents attempt to interest him asks him what he does, he answers, "I ask myself if God exists." With a slouched gait that indicates schlumpiness rather than insouciance, he is every inch the archetype of the Jewish mama's boy. Lili Kosashvili, as Zaza's ferocious mother, is a nightmare caricature of the domineering Jewish mother. Moni Moshonov manages to find some interesting layers in the character of Yasha. With a mobile face that shifts effortlessly from affability to venomous hate, he upstages the actor playing the film's protagonist.

The other life force in this film is Ronit Elkabetz as Zaza's love object. Judith could have easily been a caricature of the trashy divorcee (see also: Susan Sarandon in WHITE PALACE), but instead of being a woman victimized by her appetites, she revels in them. LATE MARRIAGE contains one of the most realistic sex scenes you will ever see on film, not because it accurately portrays any particular act, but because it displays all the gamesmanship of a couple in which neither partner is exactly certain what he or she wants from the relationship. It may be the first sex scene ever to allude to the "wet spot." Elkabetz resembles a younger, skinnier Sonia Braga. Yet the harsh light of the director's eye reveals her to be achingly human, with moles on her body and hair that isn't still exactly in place after sex. During a scene in which she is confronted by Zaza's entire family, the tension between Judith and Yasha is palpable.

In the real life of a family bound by old country traditions, love does not conquer all. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement of LATE MARRIAGE is that it arouses the audience's sympathy for a character that is not developed at all and appears in the film for no more than ten minutes, while the "hero" deserves nothing but our contempt. Tradition may be all well and good for cultures in which everyone lives in a sheltered environment, and perhaps Father Does Know Best on occasion. But for the ineffectual Zaza, knowing of his parents' history ought to have told him what his choice should be.

 

- Jill Cozzi

Review text copyright © 2002 Jill Cozzi and Cozzi fan Tutti. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text in whole or in part in any form or in any medium without express written permission of Cozzi fan Tutti or the author is prohibited.

 

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