Seventy-something Don Anselmo, a retired minister, becomes obsessed with owning a motorized wheelchair and fakes infirmity to get it.Seventy-something Don Anselmo, a retired minister, becomes obsessed with owning a motorized wheelchair and fakes infirmity to get it.Seventy-something Don Anselmo, a retired minister, becomes obsessed with owning a motorized wheelchair and fakes infirmity to get it.
Jose Isbert plays septuagenarian Don Anselmo Proharan, a retired government minister who has reluctantly ceded his home to son Carlos, an officious, condescending solicitor, his bourgeoisie wife, and Yolanda, their homely daughter. Carlos' law offices, which he shares with his daughter's ambitious fiancé, are also located on the premises, so Don Anselmo is limited to a single stifling and confining room in his own home. As he also has to share space with Yolanda, the old man has no sense of peace and quiet or privacy. In addition, Carlos has control of his father's pension, which he parsimoniously doles out as a parent would to a child, further restricting the old man's freedom. Ferreri emphasizes the situation with very effective traveling shots that follow the old man around the house's constrictive, almost claustrophobic, corridors.
Don Anselmo's only escape seems to be attending funerals, and when his paraplegic friend Don Lucas gets a motorized wheelchair, known as a "cochetito," Proharan accompanies him to his wife's grave to leave flowers. Don Anselmo soon becomes obsessed with getting his own "little coach" and joining the subculture of other "cochetito" owners that Don Lucas belongs to which congregates and interacts daily. These physically challenged people have achieved an exhilarating sense of independence and freedom, and the old man views joining them as an escape from his restricted life with his tyrannical family. However, to join them, he needs his own "little coach."
Like Toad in Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind in the Willows," Don Anselmo becomes obsessed with owning one and regaining his lost dignity. When his tight-fisted son dismisses his requests for his own chair, the old man tries several gambits in which he feigns physical infirmity to get one. Frustrated, Don Anselmo sells his dead wife's jewelry in order to buy a cochetito outright, but the son, who has already earmarked the jewelry for his daughter, humiliates the old man by forcing him to return the "cochetito" and reclaimimg his mother's jewels.
After further humiliating him, the son threatens to institutionalize the old man, to the delight of granddaughter Yolande, who is only too eager to co-opt the bedroom for herself. His self-esteem shattered, a desperate Don Anselmo poisons his family's food and runs away from home like a disaffected teenager. The film ends ambiguously with many issues left unresolved.
Ferreri directed his early films in Spain, and Don Anselmo's repression by his bourgeoisie family could be interpreted as a quietly subversive allegorical criticism of Spanish dictator's Francisco Franco's repressive fascist state. The whimsical early scene when Don Anselmo sees a surreal line of men marching in military fashion armed with mop handles for guns and wearing toilet bowls for helmets is in stark contrast to the film's more sober conclusion when the fugitive old man is arrested by the iconic uniformed actual Guardia Civil.
In any case, Ferreri left Spain for his native Italy after the release of "El Cochecito" and although this minor masterpiece is relatively obscure, he soon received some international critical acclaim for trenchantly scathing social satires like "The Ape Woman," "The Conjugal Bed," "La Grand Bouffe," and Felliniesque burlesques like "Don't Touch the White Woman," a wild send-up of Custer's Last Stand set in Paris.
Ferreri would return to the theme of aging with dignity in the poignantly sobering realism of "The House of Smiles" nearly three decades later. The director has been quoted as saying that his job is to give the audience a "punch in the stomach." "El Cochecito" is a punch, albeit a gentle one.
- Jun 30, 2014