Maybe it all just goes back to that common childhood experience of watching a scoop of ice cream melt and fall from the cone. There’s something about the anticipation and loss, and the absurd but necessary reliance on routine during hard times that gives these scenes their gentle power. And the fact that it’s all just plain funny makes everything somehow sadder.
Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush (1925). This is a classic. The Little Tramp dines on an old boot, which he sets on a plate and meticulously carves with a knife and fork. (The leather was actually licorice.)
Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run (1969). In this mockumentary, fugitive from justice, Virgil Starkwell (Allen, above), unfolds a single slice of bologna from his wallet and shares it with his wife. Strangely heartbreaking.
Stripes (1981). Coming home with a pizza and his girlfriend’s dry cleaning after a hard day's work, John Winger (Bill Murray) sees the repo man driving away with his car. In the ensuing struggle, the pie is lost. Mozzarella with tire marks has never been more poignant.
Betty Blue (France, 1986). In a show of solidarity with his mentally ill girlfriend, Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) dumps a bowl of stew over his head.