Reviewed by Dennis Morton
Zaza, the protagonist in Late Marriage,
is 31 years old. Heís studying for an advanced degree in philosophy
at Tel Aviv University. He lives across the street from his parentsí home.
Food and lodging are paid for with his fatherís credit card. Large appliances
are given to him by members of his extended family. And when asked by a
young woman what he does, Zaza says: I ask myself if God exists.
Notwithstanding the cultural traditions
of his familyís Soviet Georgian roots, itís hardly a surprise that his
parents feel within their rights to arrange a marriage for their well kept
son. And, because he is also a product of contemporary western urban culture,
no surprise either that he resists their matrimonial machinations.
Late Marriage is a brilliant study
of the clash between cultural tradition and individual
freedom. In this film, the keeper of tradition
is the extended family , exercising its prerogative to arrange the marriages
of its young.
Zaza is a likeable character, but heís
as passive as he is contemplative. Heís content to accept the largess of
his family and to go through the motions of meeting nubile young women
ferreted out by his mother and aunts. But we soon learn that heís involved
in a secret love affair with a woman named Judith. Sheís older than Zaza,
divorced, and the mother of a six year old daughter. That makes her a three
time loser by the standards of Zazaís familial traditions. And when the
family finds out about her, as they soon do, an aggressive campaign
is waged to break up the scandalous affair.
How Zaza acquits himself when matters
come to a head is at the heart of Late Marriage.
The film asks many questions, some not
at all obvious, but perhaps appropriate, considering Zazaís training. We
see that Zaza showers Judith and her daughter with practical gifts, mostly
food. Hence Zaza appears to be a generous man. But a philosopher might
ponder the essence of generosity. Can the means of Zazaís generosity be
completely divorced from the source of the means? In other words, whoís
really paying for the food on Judithís table, Zaza or Zazaís tradition-bound
A tragicomic confrontation between Zazaís
family and Judith, in Judithís apartment, may not be as black and white
as it seems. One of the movieís great strengths is that itís not as easy
to label the characters on the good guy/bad guy scale as it first appears.
In fact, little in this movie is as simple as it seems.
Late Marriage is Dover Kosashviliís first
film. He wrote and directed it. Critics are raving about the long sex scene
between Zaza and Judith, claiming it to be one of the most realistic sex
scenes in movie history. And it is a powerful scene and a testament to
the prowess of the actors and the director. But its real strength is that
itís a seamless part of the whole, a fluid, natural and believable episode
in a brilliant narrative.
This movie could not have cost much to
make but itís proof that artistic integrity is not a function of dollars.
With this one gem, Israeli film maker Dover Kosashvili reminds us what
movies can be. Late Marriage is simply one of the best movies of the year.
Donít miss it.
For The Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.
Copyright Dennis Morton 2002