The song of lunch – A Poem   Leave a comment

The Song of lunch is dramatic realization of Christopher Reid’s narrative poem. Adapted for Television and directed by Niall MacCormick stars Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. It is story of a book editor (Alan Rickman) who, 15 years after their break-up, meets his ex love (Emma Thompson) for lunch at a restaurant they used to hang out frequent.

The film is 47 minutes long, very impressive, brilliant and flows like a wine. It is very different from the other mainstream short films, has very little spoken dialogue and mainly driven by Rickman’s sharp poignant interior monologues.

Rickman, a book editor in London leaves his office for lunch. He is in constantly touch with his own poetic imagery and while walking on the street imagines ‘leafy Literary-Land’. “And there goes TS Eliot, bound for his first Martini of the day, with his gig-lamps and his immaculate sheen.” He reveals that he is going out for a date with an ‘old flame’. Restaurant name: Zanzotti’s -unreformed Soho Italian, in which they used to hang out regularly when they were together but Soho has changed into ‘Cultureless, fly-by-night’. It’s been 15 years since he paid a visit to the restaurant and now it is under a new management. “The very table linen has lost its patriotism. Plain white. We surrender. And this menu – this twanging laminated card – big as a riot policeman’s shield.”

He meets his ex and after “Familiar collision of pout against pout” questions start to breed in his mind, “Though there’s something different, too. A new…what? Fragrance? Aura, Hint of carefree expenditure? Waft of wealth?” . The restaurant has lost its old charm and along with its famous cuisine, He is very much dejected. While, on the other hand, she is really happy and admires the new look of it. “And I’m quite glad to see a menu that doesn’t make a fetish of stracciatella and pollo sorpreso”. They announce truce and agree to talk about anything and everything that has happened so far with their personal lives.

Confessions Of A Copy Editor, chapter 93.

It’s an ordinary day in a publishing house of ill repute. Another moronic manuscript comes crashing down the chute to be turned into art. This morning it was Wayne Wanker’s latest dog’s dinner of sex, teenage philosophy and writing-course prose. Abracadabra, kick it up the arse and out it goes to be Book Of The Week or some other bollocks. What a fraud. What a farce. And tomorrow, which of our geniuses will escape from the zoo and head straight for us with a new masterpiece lifeless in his jaws? That’s about the size of it. What about you?

After such a rant, he finds it difficult to look her in the eye, “which is bright, amused, searching, pitiless,” he used to call them ‘Oracle eyes’.

The harder you looked,
the more sublime and unreadable they became.
But have they lost their old force?
The heretical question strengthen his own stare
Gaze meets gaze, revealing,as ever
everything and nothing there.

She is now living a glamorous life in Paris, a good wife and a loving mother and has no complaints.  She is married to a renowned writer “The ubiquitous jacket photo, the wintry smirk that stole her from him.” and he questions his own decision to let her go “And how could he have been so abject as to let it happen?”.

With comparisons and compliments with respect to the food, they have a pleasant time. He empties bottle of wine all by himself and orders another one, falls in and out of consciousness, retrieving the good times that they had spent together.

Slender fingers,
once so intimate
and versatile and tender.

Old times, bedtimes,
between-times,any-times,
of a startling impromptu innocent lasciviousness
that he’ll never know again?
Sleep-musky kisses that roused him in the small hours,
peremptory custody of light,
firm limbs, the polyrhythmic riding
he’ll never know again.
Caught a fish and let it go. Woe, woe, woe, woe…


His conscience repeatedly tells him not to think about the past and with the infinitesimal details that he still remembers, enters into an ever-ending conversation with himself.

Found a treasure and threw it away.
Figure of folly and pathos.
Voyeur of the past, and of the present.
He steals a peep.
Every movement has elegance and economy, is swift and deft.
The jut of her wristbone,
marvel of engineering,
holds the secret,
and as a connoisseur,
he yearns to inspect it at closer quarters,
by eye and by touch.
But how can he catch it?
Like a butterfly hunter,
he ponders the problem.

She tells him that she read his book and liked it, but finds all mythical stuff relating to it to be uninteresting, to which he points out that the mythical stuff was the whole point in the book which made sense i.e: Orpheus who attempts to bring back his dead wife to life. This is exactly the reason why she detests the book. She considers his truth to be trivial and metaphorical. “The analogy, the whole preposterous contrivance falls apart.”

He again goes into self-talk mode and watching this she bursts into anger and explains she had to make loads of amendments just to see him, meet him for lunch and also complains of his lack of attention. “You’re out to lunch at your own lunch.”

And who’s also to blame for your present state of emotional arrest,
infantile truculence and drunken flippancy.
It’s not just that you’re stuck in the past.
You’re stuck in your poems.
Which have their merits.
They’re nicely written,
they’re clever and so on.
But they’re misconceived,
false, hollow, wrong.
You should never have gone there.
Yet you did.
That… That’s the catastrophe.
That’s the disaster.


He accepts that his book was full of shite and goes to the rest room “the jabbing kidney reek that proclaims all men brothers.” and to terrace, he “cannot decide whether to weep or sleep.” Stays on the terrace for sometime and suddenly realizes that he has to go back to the table. Now, the restaurant is empty and she has left the place. He bids adieu but finds an old man who is seated by the window and “As he turns to go, the recognition… pierces him. Massimo!”

Phew! What a journey. Poetry translated into sublime drama with Outstanding performances from Rickman and Mrs.Thompson. At times you can feel severus snape’s tone in one or many inherent conversations. I did relate some of the scenes to Paris je t’ aime: Quartier Latin: A separated couple (Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands) meet at a bar for one last drink before the two officially divorce and also with Richard Linklater’s: Before Sunrise/Sunset.

It is one of the rare movies that I find intellectually stimulating, not just it but the whole process of thought transmission, narration, the facial expressions; that mean much more than the words itself.

Come drown into a sea of words: hear them, taste them, smell them.

More Reading:

http://debatinghouseofthemind.blogspot.com/2010/10/song-of-lunch-on-bbc-two.html

http://www.heraldscotland.com/arts-ents/film-tv-reviews/the-song-of-lunch-bbc-two-friday-1.1059238

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