Somewhere in the middle of the Israeli import "Late Marriage," a 12-minute sex scene unfolds between the main characters.
"I [said I would] do the scene because it was natural," said Ronit Elkabetz, one-half of that onscreen couple.
The 37-year-old Israeli actress believes that the film's much-talked about passage stands out for its realism: no shying away from anatomy -- female or male; no Hollywood-stylized romance, ripe with female exploitation. Just warts-and-all lovemaking shot in real time to convey the power -- and the awkwardness -- of the characters' union.
There are others reasons why the film connected with Israelis, Elkabetz said.
"It's a really good story," she said, adding that the film's foreign Georgian community backdrop didn't hurt.
In Dover Kosashvili's "Late Marriage" ("Hatuna Meuheret"), Elkabetz portrays Judith, the worldly 34-year-old single mother who becomes the center of controversy and conflict between her 31-year-old lover (Lior Ashkenazi) and his traditional immigrant family. The lighthearted tone that shades "Late Marriage" does not prepare viewers for the film's raw, decidedly un-Hollywood ending.
"Late Marriage," which premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, brought Elkabetz much acclaim.
Growing up in Haifa, she admired American actresses such as Bette Davis. After serving in the army, she moved to Tel Aviv to make films such as "Ben Gurion" (1997).
"I don't think there's a difference being an actress in Israel," she said of her craft. But she did say that Israel's government-supported film industry does not allow for tremendous career or salary growth. Perhaps that's why the actress, who recently won a screenwriting grant, plans to make her own films.
Despite her relocation to Paris, where she works in film and on stage, Elkabetz will always act in Israeli projects."It's my family, it's my country," she said.
"Late Marriage" opened May 22 in limited release at Regent Showcase, 614 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 934-2944; Laemmle Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 981-9811, and Edwards South Coast Village 3, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 540-0594.