Late Marriage

Hatouna Mehuheret

Year: 2001
Country: Israel
Running time: 100 mins
Screenplay: Dover Kosashvili
Production co: Transfax Film Production/Morgane Production
Producers: Marek Rosenbaum, Edgard Tenembaum
Photography: Dani Schneor
Editor: Yael Perlov
Art director: Avi Fahima
Costume designer: Maya Barsky
Sound: Oleg Kaiserman, Nathalie Vidal
Music: Joseph Bardanashvili
In Georgian and Hebrew, with English subtitles

Zaza: Lior Louie Ashkenazi
Judith: Ronit Elkabetz
Yasha: Moni Moshonov
Lili: Lili Kosashvili
Madona: Sapir Kugman

Festivals: Cannes (Un Certain Regard), Toronto, Vancouver, London 2001; New Directors/New Films, San Francisco 2002
Late Marriage is a pungent romantic comedy pitting grown-up lovers against frustrated wannabe grandmothers. The film pivots on the dilemma of the unmarried Zaza, handsome, 31 years old and gratified by his relationship with his older, divorced, solo mother girlfriend, Judith. Zaza’s mother and a stout-hearted battalion of female confederates are implacably opposed to this arrangement. But even the sexiest of their bridal candidates cannot deflect the canny Zaza from unmarried bliss. (‘You’re more than I can handle,’ says he to the stunningly poised 17-year-old beauty in question. ‘Tell me something I don’t already know,’ she replies.) Where pandering to male lust fails, witchcraft may come in handy too. Women on either side of the film’s generational divide resort to hilariously yukky talismans in their attempts to summon up the spark of a man’s love – or douse it.

The film’s pièce de résistance is a long bedroom scene which speaks volumes about the dynamics of Zaza and Judith’s passion: the excitement, deceptions, ruthlessness, playfulness and fear; the mutuality and the selfishness that make their world spin. Encapsulating the potent disorderly forces that all the old women are determined to defuse, this scene feels ground-breaking in its dramatisation of sexual intimacy.

The younger characters are played with a seductive naturalism while the grim matriarchs perform in a broader style. Though they display all the sensitivity of tanks, it’s never in doubt that their determination to pin a good man down has been brought about by years of experience of philandering males. The film simultaneously employs and subverts many of the narrative tricks of feel-good comedy to make its ultimately sobering point. Though the shooting style is plain, and the art direction as pedestrian as a television soapie, there’s a point of view so distinctive here that audiences may feel more daunted by the filmmaker’s slippery way with their expectations than by the orthodoxy he so thoroughly denounces. — Bill Gosden

A deserved hit in Cannes last year, this story of life and love in Tel Aviv’s Georgian Jewish community looks even better the second time around. In fact it’s a little gem: funny, humane, sexy and moving. Writer-director Dover Kosashvili elicits lovely performances from Lior Ashkenazi as Zaza, the ageing momma’s boy bullied into an arranged marriage with a suitable girl, and Ronit Elkabetz as Judith, the beautiful single-mother divorcee whom Zaza secretly loves. — Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 18/1/02