The London Review of Breakfasts

"Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper." (Francis Bacon)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Breakfasts in Art: Bernard Sumner's fry up

Breakfasts in Art #2
Control by Anton Corbijn

by H.P. Seuss

I do not think any reader will mind my beginning this discussion by relaying the following joke:

I went to see that Joy Division film the other night. And you'll never guess who was sitting in front of me: Beth Ditto! Only she kept getting up and blocking my view. "Sit down Beth!", I cried. "You're standing in the way of Control!"

Unfortunately, Control is no longer in the cinemas, the Gossip's Standing in the Way of Control is not as ubiquitious as it was when it was, and this delightful joke, once so fresh, is as stale as a Victor Lewis Smith TV column. Fans of metatextuality will be pleased to note that since Victor
Lewis Smith no longer writes his stale TV column, this reference itself is stale, deliberately so. For such is the way with pop cultural ephemera, which is why the London Review of Breakfast purports to report the news from eternity as well as review breakfasts.

But this is all besides the point, the point being the scene in Control in which a cooked breakfast is prepared by Bernard Sumner for himself and Ian Curtis. I say breakfast, though the meal is clearly consumed in the evening, because its constituent parts are as follows:

Fried slice

It is a memorable scene. Ian (Sam Riley) is at a low ebb. Embroiled in an extra-marital affair, afflicted by epilepsy and exhaustion, he has left his long-suffering wife Deborah (beautifully portrayed by Samantha Morton) and has been forced to stay with his bandmate Bernard (played James Anthony Pearson). The meal is Bernard's way of accommodating, even comforting his friend, drawing him out of himself.

I do not imagine women in late-Seventies Macclesfield were stern advocates of the Five-a-Day, but even so, there is something very male about the unhealthiness of the concoction, its particular combination of ingredients, washed down with tea; the kitchen was then still foreign territory even for relatively mild, intellectual men such as Bernard, and you suspect Deborah would have done a better job, that Ian would need the HP Sauce on the table to render it palatable, had he any appetite at all.

Conversation is stilted; Ian does not open up; the meal does not mark a turning point. But Bernard is mothering Ian as far as the strictures of northern masculinity and his own competence will allow and this is very touching. There, in a pool of grease, is a sad truth about male friendship.


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