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Late Marriage
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 parents? 
     
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