Zaza is 31 years old and still drifting in life, which leads to heavy worry where his parents are concerned. Despite seeking out potential wives for him and arranging various meetings, Zaza shrugs off any of the candidates. Zaza is disinterested in any of the young girls because he has been secretly seeing Judith, a 34 year old divorcee who has a six year old daughter. He insists that once he finishes school he will introduce her to his parents, but he knows his family will be steadfast in their disapproval of such a woman. When his family discovers the affair and is incensed, they confront Zaza and his mistress, and he must decide between tradition and family or the woman they will never approve of.
This 2001 Israeli comedy/drama gives a revealing look inside a culture- the setting being modern Tel Aviv and Zaza and his family Georgian emigrants. While the arranged marriage is still a part of many cultures, I have never seen a film with quite this much insight into it and with such a nice mix of tones, from comic, to naturalistic, to bittersweet.
The film opens with the family fretting over another formal meeting with a potential wife for Zaza. He shows up wearing a casual suit offset by a loud yellow shirt, unbuttoned at the collar, no tie, obviously just going through the motions. While the two families try to trade dry banter, each being unsuccessful in hiding the fact that they are desperate to marry off their children, the potentials ask what Zaza does for a living. He is still in school and 31. His parents quickly add that he is going for his doctorate. The potential family smiles, but Zaza shoots down his education by stating he isn't going to be a doctor, he's studying humanities. But even this doesn't sour the hopeful potential bother in law, who proudly says, "Good, an intellectual." And, then there is the girl, 17, pretty, wants to be a designer, and full of attitude, wishing for a husband who is rich. The two know right away they aren't interested in each other, but go through the motions of ritual, try to make conversation, even maybe kiss a little, while their families anxiously wait in the other room dreaming of a match.
And even though the opening I just described sets the stage nicely, Late Marriage really kicks into gear when we see Zaza and Judith. In what has to be one of the most frank and natural bedroom scenes I've ever seen on film, we watch Zaza and Judith make love, and joke together, witness what it obviously a familiarity, an honestly, and a deep connection between them. It is the kind of believable, warts and all, emotionally and physically naked scenes that make you realize just how false and mechanical 99% of bedroom scenes in cinema actually are. If the rest of the film were unbelievable crud- which it is not- it would still be worthwhile viewing just for this scene alone.
Then the film takes a drastic turn. As Zaza's family confronts him and his secret mistress, first time director/writer Dover Koshashvili makes a bold move by almost entirely dispensing the comedy for quite a sullen twist and remains on this tone for the last third of the film. It literally turns on a dime as his family angrily verbally and physically threatens Zaza and Judith callously shoving, spitting, cursing each of them. It left me reeling, especially because of what transpires as a result. The film paints a portrait of a culture still holding onto archaic tradition that completely forsakes love in favor of (well, to this Westerner) sad old ideals.
The DVD: New Yorker Video
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1. Image is a bit soft and the contrast could be deepened, but overall it is average. No bad technical glitches, compression, artifacts, or pixellation. The print is free of any dirt or spots and the colors and fleshtones are quite good.
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Georgian and Hebrew with optional English subtitles. Pretty routine sound mix, mainly the film relies on dialouge which is presented clear and full with the occasional spots of music coming through nicely. One again, a very average, pleasing audio track
Extras: Chapter Selections--- Trailer--- New Yorker Video info and trailers for other features Kandahar, The town is Quiet, Fast Food Fast Women and The Price of Milk.
Conclusion: Fascinating debut film. A melancholic comedy giving great insight into a culture and its traditions. The disc is barebones and carries a pricey reatail, but such is often the case when loving foreign film. The presentation is fine, so the curious foreign film fan should be adequately pleased.