Directed by Dover Kosashvili. Israel-France 2001. 103 mins

Telling an extremely powerful story of family tyranny and intergenerational conflict within Israel's Georgian-Jewish community, Late Marriage represents the impressive feature debut of Dover Kosashvili, who, at this phase, acquits himself more honorably as an astute writer than competent director. A highlight of Israeli cinema of recent years, this intriguing, well-acted serio comedy, which received its world premiere in Cannes' Certain Regard, is a likely candidate for the international festival circuit. Late Marriage will be seen in moviehouses in Paris, but it deserves to be seen theatrically in other major cities that have large Jewish and Israeli populations.

Handsome protagonist is Zaza (Ashkenazi), a smart, charismatic, highly educated (Ph.D. candidate in philosophy) 32-year-old bachelor, who seems to have everything in his life except the ability to choose his love partners. Still under the tight control of his conservative and domineering parents, Yasha and Lili (Moshonov and Kosashvili), Zaza is literally dragged by them to meet one potential bride after another. The unbendable requirements set by the parents have always been clear: Zaza's bride must be beautiful, from a good family, preferably rich, and most important of all, younger than him, even by one year.

What the family fails to realize is that Zaza has already found the love of his life, Judith (Elkabetz). The problem is, Judith fails to meet all of his parents' criteria: Older than Zaza by 6 years, she is a divorcee and single mom, a truly independent woman who takes pride of her sexuality. The film contains a long, remarkably candid and graphic sexual encounter that not only sets a record for the portrayal of sex in Israeli movies, but also captures Zaza and Judith's emotionally nuanced relationship, as well as their undeniably strong physical attraction.

Indeed, richness of detail and extraordinary frankness mark the entire script, which has already won a number of prizes for helmer. In the film's central piece, Zaza's entire extended family invades Judith's tiny apartment, after watching carefully their son's moves in an out of her residence. It's a tribute to Kosashvili's sharp observational powers that the confrontation shifts tone effortlessly from the seriously scary to the achingly and darkly comic.

American movies tend to side with their young heroes, often embracing completely their point-of-view. In contrast, Late Marriage, while clearly empathizing with Zaza's plight, also tries to understand the parents' standpoint, highlighting the oppression of traditions, including pre-arranged marriage, and the unbearable chains of a past that are not easily broken. The painfully bitter, darkly humorous wedding scene that culminates the story not only defies conventions of similar endings in American comedies, but is as coherent, ambiguous, and emotionally true as the rest of the story.

As a follow-up to helmer's 1999 short, "With Rules," which won a award in Cannes, Late Marriage shows a lot of promise for an obviously intelligent director, who needs to polish his technical skills, specifically framing, editing, and pacing.

Pro cos Transfix, Morgane

Int'l dist Diaphana

Int'l sales Celluloid Dreams

Exec prod Udi Yerushalmy

Prod Marek Rosenbaum

Scr Kosashvili

Cinematography Dani Schneor

Ed Yael Perlov

Music Joseph Bardanashvili

Main cast Lior Louie Ashkenazi, Ronit Elkabetz, Moni Moshonov, Lili Kosashvili.