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Seville Pictures presents
"Go get married. Stop hanging around here. You'll lose less underwear."
DVD ReviewOy, the things a son will do to break his Jewish mother's heart. The tyranny of the family is at the center of Late Marriage, an unsettling and darkly comic recent Israeli film—much of it is very funny, but it's so loaded with family recriminations that I'm reluctant to term it a comedy. Guys, take note: it is also not the movie to watch with the girlfriend who is pressuring you for a ring, and you'd be wise to have Mom and Dad take a pass on this one, as well.
Zaza is finishing up his PhD at Tel Aviv University, and as his uncle says, "It's a disgrace to this whole family that this boy isn't married at thirty-one." And he's still very much a boy, the perpetual student, living across the street from his parents, charging his expenses on his father's credit card. Enough is enough, say his parents: it's time to find Zaza a bride. The extended clan is pressed into action, and when we meet Zaza, he and his entourage—parents, sister, various other relatives—are on their way to meet an eligible young woman not yet out of high school. She's one in a continuing series of women to whom Zaza says no, thank you—what's wrong with this boy?
The problem is this: he's involved in a torrid liaison with Judith, a relationship he's kept secret from his family, because of what they would no doubt see as three strikes against her: she's older than Zaza, she's divorced, and she's got a daughter. Zaza's parents sniff out the relationship, however, and storm Judith's apartment like a vengeful SWAT team, insisting that Zaza vow never to see this harlot again.
The main tension at work in the film is between the old tribal ways and Zaza's modern desire to follow his own bliss—will the pressure of the group force him into abandoning Judith, the woman he loves, for a bland young virgin barely out of grade school? Zaza's family act like emotional terrorists—they destroy Judith's possessions, they threaten to kill her before allowing her to marry their boy, they do violence to both Zaza and her, in full view of her young daughter. And Zaza cannot help but respond—you can see the anguish in his face when his mother reproaches him: "Don't shame me."
First-time director Dover Kosashavili does a marvelous job communicating Zaza's internal conflict, the problems facing this fellow who very much wants to be his own man, but has been programmed since birth to be a mama's boy. The deck may be stacked, in storytelling terms, against the older generation, who use tradition as the tool for tyrannizing their son—Mom and Dad run basically a bad cop/bad cop routine, supported by a chorus of still worse cops, all, of course, in the name of love.
The acting is generally solid, especially from Lior Ashkenazi as Zaza, the linchpin of the piece; even better is Ronit Elkabetz as Judith, who embodies both the carnality that Zaza craves and the warm domestic life that his own family allegedly wants for him. In some respects, the whole story plays out as a sort of wry, dour, Israeli version of Jerry Maguire, without a redemptive Hollywood happy ending. The last sequence of the movie—it's Zaza's wedding, and I don't think I'm telling any tales out of school on this one, as the image on the cover of the DVD case is of Zaza showing off his marriage band—is one of the most deeply uncomfortable scenes in recent memory, all because of the unspoken emotional content. Very little of it is on the words, but the story speaks volumes nonetheless, and it's an emotionally harrowing journey that's likely to stay with you long after you pop the disc out of your player.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Colors are rendered pretty accurately, though there are some resolution problems—these are especially evident in some of the interiors, where the walls are papered with intricate and glossy patterns. Otherwise, the black level is true, and the flesh tones are particularly lifelike and nuanced.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: There's almost no underscoring for the movie, and while the transfer is a fair one, the lack of music makes the occasional pops on the soundtrack stick out that much more sorely. The stereo track is used to fairly good effect, and the dialogue is easy enough to make out.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Jan Dara, Pandaemonium, Love Street
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Extras Review: As you might expect from a Canadian release, subtitles are offered in both French and English. An original English-language trailer and three other Seville releases are the only other extras.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsThis is probably the very antithesis of a date movie, but the feelings of discomfort that Late Marriage is likely to evoke in you is an indication of the film's brutal truthfulness. Some more context and information about the filmmaker and his world would have been very welcome, but even in this relatively spare release, there's a lot to recommend about this one.
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