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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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One man’s garbage, another man’s masterpiece

“Ah, miserable dog, if I had offered you a package of excrement, you would have sniffed at it with delight and perhaps gobbled it up. In this you resemble the public, which should never be offered delicate perfumes that infuriate them, but only carefully selected garbage.”

-Charles Baudelaire, “The Dog and the Scent Bottle,” from Paris Spleen

The public is a fickle, flea-ridden beast whose palate defies pattern, prediction and logic.

As French modernist writer Charles Baudelaire implies in his vignette, “The Dog and the Scent Bottle,” the rabble becomes irate when confronted by the profound or intellectual-what he calls “perfume.”

According to him, the public loves, and in a sense deserves, “carefully selected garbage.” In other words, the masses are only satisfied with the sort of mindless entertainment that melts the neural transmitters of test rats in Icelandic labs.

Fascinating thing is that the public is even pickier with its garbage than it is with its perfume. A quark-thin line separates “Awesome Superhit” from “Abominable SnowCrap.”

I mean, who could have foreseen that America would devour such cultural waste as the horror film “Hostel,” the incompetently written The DaVinci Code, “The Passion of the Christ” or pop stinkstress Avril Lavigne?

It’s all booable stuff. Terrible, really.

People venerate all variety of poop, but disparage perhaps the most discerning, superb film of 2003. You might remember it-a modest little non-publicity-oriented flick going by the name, “Gigli” (it rhymes with really).

The film follows three strangers-Ben Affleck’s lonely, conflicted Larry Gigli, Jennifer Lopez’s meditative Ricki and Justin Bartha’s mentally challenged Brian-as they embark on an existential journey. They bicker, they laugh, they cry. In the end, the unlikely trio of discrete and antisocial outcasts is transformed into a sort of makeshift, loving family unit.

Like most great contemplative cinematic quests for significance, very little actually happens in “Gigli.” The characters, for the most part, just drive around in a vintage car and talk. It’s a film about life. Pure and simple life.

Perhaps the static plot explains “Gigli’s” narrow appeal: Its ruminating style might just be too intellectual and challenging for the public to enjoy as leisure entertainment.

Luckily for me, I am no public.

But Bennifer’s high-zoot intellectualism shouldn’t render the movie wholly unapproachable. “Gigli’s” dialogue, for instance, is delicately layered, allowing for manifold levels of interpretation and enjoyment. One can take it at face value or read into the subtext to derive any variety of messages and meanings.

Take this line, for example: “You see, after all is said and done, the only thing you can be really sure of, the only thing you can really count on in this world, is that you just never f***ing know.”

Wow. Life. Pure and simple.

My entire body is tingling. Simple, yet permitting ample room for close reading-that’s “Gigli” in a nutshell.

The film also tackles the sensitive subject of mutable sexuality. Lopez’s Ricki, at first categorizing herself as homosexual, has sex with Affleck’s Gigli, thus altering her conception of sexual identity-as any of us would.

Writer and director Martin Brest seems to be propounding the notion that sexuality is never fixed. It’s malleable, not unlike those bendy Gumby dolls from the 1980s. This pliability further begs the question of whether sexuality is inborn, learned, the result of Ben Affleck’s loving touch-or a perplexing mix of all three.

Such inner-conflicts underlie “Gigli” and extend to all aspects of its characters. Gigli is a lonely, desperate gangster. All his needs and desires are fulfilled-he lives in an awesome apartment and drives a radical car-yet as a goombah, he has given up meaningful relationships and is thus alone, friendless and unhappy coifed.

In a strange turn of events, he meets Ricki, who mends his torn soul and shows him that it is human relationships that lend importance to one’s life, not the number of meaningless, barren possessions one maintains. In this, Brest seems to be exploring what happens to a person when all his or her basic needs (the first couple tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy: food, shelter and safety) are met but love is ignored and we fixate on the ambiguous notion of self-actualization.

With nothing basic to worry about, people are miserable. They substitute things for other human beings, and consequently feel massive, empty cavities in their souls. Maybe Brest is implying that such a confounding of priorities typifies all the western nations: America, Sweden, France. Realistically, we don’t have to worry about anything, and thus we generate reasons to be unhappy.

“Gigli” has many insights for the eager viewer to discern. Don’t be scared. Just go rent a copy.

For now, however, I must go. In the stirring words of Larry Gigli, “Stick a fork in me, I’m done.”

Ah, life.

This has been Ben Zalkind reminding you that bad movies make you think.

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