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'Late Marriage'

'Late Marriage' an orgy of passion, Georgian style

Friday, August 16, 2002

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

The skin on a kosher hot dog is no tighter than the Georgian emigre community of Tel Aviv. Your own family's business is the business of every other family you know -- and there's no business like the woe business of getting your kids married.

'Late Marriage'

RATING: R for adult sexual themes and nudity

STARRING: Lior Ashkenazi, Ronit Elkabetz, Moni Moshonov, Lili Kovashvili

DIRECTOR: Dover Kovashvili

WEB SITE: www.celluloid


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Know any Georgian Jews? Neither did I. But I do now, and won't soon forget them, in the wake of "Late Marriage" -- a very erotic, very black comedy of manners and the morals behind them.

Lily (Lili Kovashvili) and Yasha (Moni Moshonov) are frantic: Son Zaza (Lior Ashkenazi) is smart, charming and handsome as the devil but -- at the disgraceful age of 31 -- remains unmarried and shows no sign of wanting to be married. They make incessant efforts to match him up with a string of good virginal candidates, but he finds each one less tempting than the one before.


Because he's got a torrid affair going with Judith (Ronit Elkabetz), a 34-year-old divorcee -- with a 6-year-old kid named Madonna, yet.

How hot is Judith? Extremely hot. So are their graphic sex scenes -- passionate, playful and unpredictably funny. She is sexually insatiable. He loves her for it. After one tumble, he gets out of bed and says he has to sleep standing up because his wife from a previous life is haunting him. She is constantly either infuriated or mesmerized by him, often both at once.

He and her little girl adore each other; there's no reason in the world why such a man of 31 and woman of 34 shouldn't hitch up and live happily ever after.

No reason in our world, maybe -- but every reason in this world.

Zaza's not too cool about covering his tracks. He accidentally locks his parents out of their apartment during a tryst with Judith, which is how they find out about her. And when they do, all hellish Jewish tradition breaks loose -- not the nice Tevye kind of tradition, but the explosive Georgian kind. Mama, Papa, aunts, uncles and cousins descend like a Wild West posse on poor Judith for an "intervention" to put an end to the scandal once and for all.

Zaza is there, cowering. His huge, fuming mother demands her credit card back -- then notices her old microwave in Judith's kitchen, and is further enraged: "I had that oven seven years -- it was never so dirty!"

It's an incredible scene, equally hilarious and frightening. So are these characters, in general. Everybody's superstitious: Mama sneaks a love charm under one of the bride-candidates' bed. Judith burns Zaza's underwear with a special sex-spell incantation. Zaza, pretentiously studying to be a doctor (of philosophy) at Tel Aviv University, is both above and beneath it all. Clever and clueless.

"Late Marriage," quirkily directed by Dover Kovashvili with dogged realism, has (subtitled) Hebrew and Georgian dialogue and wonderful performances -- not least from Lili Kovashvili as Zaza's mother, who happens to be the director's in real life.

We laugh, however fitfully, throughout the picture up to a few minutes before its more bitter than sweet ending. To tell you that the final scene is Zaza's wedding is not to give it away:

Who's the bride? Who's the woman he loves more? Who's sorry now? Who's still laughing?

Barry Paris can be reached at 412-263-3859.

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