The Impossible Dream


Our Daily Correspondent


A comparatively tame still from the erotic cartoon take on Quixote.

It made headlines last year when word got out that Terry Gilliam would finally resume work on his windmill-tilting Don Quixote—and cineastes speak with awe of Orson Welles’s unfinished 1955 Quixote. But there’s one Quixote adaptation that no one talks about much, that few people seem even to know about: the Spanish pornographic cartoon from the seventies.

I’m not going to link to it. If you want to track it down, you can. The caption on one Web site reads, “Just too cool … Must see … ” I’m not a professional film critic, but I respectfully disagree—the erotic Don Quijote cartoon is tedious in the extreme.

I mean, if your thing is a priapic, animated Don Quijote having explicit amorous adventures with various buxom women—all of them coarsely animated—knock yourself out. (I’ll admit I didn’t watch closely—I jumped around—but there also seems to be a threesome with cartoon Sancho Panza and a chambermaid.) And I don’t speak German, but I’m pretty sure there were some lance puns in there. 

I understand that Don Quixote’s point isn’t plot; that we’re supposed to accompany him in his adventures and that the picaresque, open-ended nature of his quest is integral to the experience. But there is considerably more … variety in the original source material. And more motivation; in the grand tradition of pornography, innkeepers’ wives and chambermaids and passing noblewomen fall into Don Quixote’s bed (or off ladders, onto his waiting manhood) for no seeming reason. The knight of La Mancha’s enduring, single-minded devotion to Dulcinea may seem to us squares to be a crucial aspect of his character, and of the novel as a whole—but hey, artistic license! 

Of course, it’s possible that the whole thing is just playing with the idea of Don Quixotes’s illusions. Maybe we’re supposed to assume that these sexual adventures are as much a figment of his imagination as his steed, his quest, and his notions of chivalry. Perhaps, by extension, it’s really a meditation on fantasy and aging. The pressures of masculinity and the power of suppressed homoerotic desires.

None of which really explains the scene in the pigpen. 

It was John Waters who said, “You’re not really a classic, in my book, until there’s a porn parody.” Cervantes may have had to wait till Tangerine Dream’s heyday, but by this standard, he’s made it.

Whether he’d agree is another matter. Archeologists recently announced that they’ve found Cervantes’s remains in a Madrid convent. One member of the team warned,

We can’t at all confirm that we have found Cervantes, we can’t guarantee this was Cervantes’ coffin either, but the reality is that we have found a very battered coffin which was falling apart, and some badly damaged bones in that corner of the crypt.

This seems like a pretty clear indication that it is, indeed, Cervantes’s body: he was literally rolling in his grave. 

Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.