Cervantes: Part I

This week provided a variety of revelations. The cockfighting scene in Norman Jewison’s The Cincinnati Kid (1965) can be compared with the Muay Thai fighting scene in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Mysterious Object at Noon (2000) to illustrate what Roland Barthes says about the American fascination with wrestling entertainment in his seminal work, Mythologies (1957). My first week of teaching a course on the ‘politics of film’, for the second time, is over. 15 more weeks to go. Thai writer, Vachara Sajasarasin, is the newest winner of Southeast Asia’s most prestigious literary award, the SeaWrite. His book of short stories on the woes of rapid global transition simultaneously giving rise to indifference and complexity, called We Have Forgotten Something.

Today over a hundred languages facilitate the transmission of Cervantes’ quixotic idiom, the music that blurs fact with fiction, that indebts Dostoyevsky (The Idiot [1868]) and surrealism to the late 16th/early 17th century author.  Jailed like ‘the underground man’, a loyal soldier of the State (like Socrates in The Apology or Julien Sorel in The Red and the Black), Cervantes had stories and, like Samuel Putnam notes, “1st hand knowledge of underworld types”. Since Don Quixote is the so-called 1st modern novel, there are few genre distinctions to be had. Cervantes formulates characters like new wave film directors project montage: split, disordered & re-ordered, complex (see David Bordwell on art film).

In any case, I’m reminded of Cervantes when Apichatpong Weerasethakul recently spoke of his film Syndromes and a Century (2006) after it was banned for domestic release by Thailand’s revamped Culture Ministry: “I, as a filmmaker, treat my works as I do my own sons or daughters.” Likewise, Cervantes opens the first modern novel, “the child of my brain..an offspring…a story filled with thoughts that never occurred to anyone else, of a sort that might be engendered in a prison where every annoyance has its home and every mournful sound its habitation”.  

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