The Tenant

03/11/2021 06:09

Film: The Tenant

Year: 1976

Director: Roman Polasnki

Writer: Gérard Brach and Roman Polanski

Starring: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani and Melvyn Douglas



This was a movie that I got to turned on to thanks to podcasts. I knew the name of Roman Polanski and by this time, I had already seen Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown and The Ninth Gate. The first two actually complete his apartment trilogy with this movie. It has been on a list of movies to see and I finally pulled the trigger as its number on a randomizer for my New Year, New Me segment on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. The synopsis here is a bureaucrat rents a Paris apartment where he finds himself drawn into a rabbit hole of dangerous paranoia.

For this movie, the credits are given to us as we're seeing the outside of an apartment building. When we look into the windows, we are seeing people. Reflecting back on this, it is setting the stage as while looking in one window, the camera tilts down before coming back up and the person is different. We also get to see some of the other inhabitants from their apartment windows as well.

It then takes us to our star here of Trelkovsky (Polanski). He meets with the concierge, Shelley Winters, about seeing an apartment there. She is skeptical and also doesn't want to seem bothered. She inquires as to how he heard about the room. Trelkovsky is polite in his responses and she takes him up to the room. It appears that the woman who lives there tried to kill herself and the concierge finds it funny. This doesn't seem to faze him as much as you would think and he inquires about the terms. She cannot negotiate them and takes him to the landlord, Monsieur Zy (Melvyn Douglas). They have some back and forth that results in Zy liking Trelkovsky. He cannot rent the room to him at this time as the tenant of Simone is still alive in the hospital.

Trelkovsky is curious about her and goes to the hospital to pay her a visit. It appears that she is out of her coma, but is not supposed to talk. At her bedside is her friend of Stella (Isabelle Adjani). The two of them talk and this allows Trelkovsky to learn more about Simone. The two of them spend the rest of the day together despite the unnerving hospital visit.

He continues to check on her status until he learns that she has passed away. He then moves into her apartment. As he gets himself acclimated, he decides to have some friends from work over as a housewarming party. They're having a good time and maybe a bit too much. His upstairs neighbor comes down to complain about the noise. He has everyone leave and the next day he is scolded by Zy as well. This starts him having to deal with most everyone from the building complaining about him for different reasons.

Trelkovsky also goes to the nearby cafe where the owner, Jacques Monod, treats him like the previous tenant of his apartment. He makes him a chocolate to drink and gives him the same brand of cigarettes, even though it isn't the brand he smokes. Along with those from his building, Trelkovsky descends into a bit of madness as he looks into what happened to Simone. Are his neighbors being as mean to him as he thinks or is some of this in his head?

I think that gets you up to speed for a recap of this movie. Where I want to start my analysis is that, this trilogy from Polanski is interesting. Repulsion is dealing with a disturbed young woman that descends into madness in her apartment and Rosemary's Baby is a classic that is dealing with a potential coven of Satanists. I wasn't sure what we would be getting here, but having now seen this, it fits.

The first thing is that I'm intrigued that this was directed/co-written/starring Polanski. I'm shocked at his performance as well. I know about his legal troubles that happened not too long after this movie and of course what happened with Sharon Tate. I wonder how much of the latter plays into his portrayal of Trelkovsky. It also makes me consider how much is just him as this character. Trelkovsky is timid for starters. I love that we get to see this as his friends that come over are bullying him to stand up to his neighbors, but he doesn't want to rock the boat. Despite what he does, it annoys them and this causes him to descend into the madness and drives him to what happens in the end.

This movie really plays with us not knowing what is real and what's not. Zy is stern with him in the beginning, but we see that he has a fondness for how direct Trelkovsky is along with the answers to things he is asked. This poor young man though has an upstairs neighbor who is mean to him over being too loud, Madame Dioz (Jo Van Fleet) doesn't like an answer she gets when asking him a question and even Trelkvosky's friends mock him. Trelkovsky is quiet by nature and really just wants to keep to himself. There is some social commentary here as he's not from Paris. The character is from Poland, much like Polanski is, which comes into play when he wants to report a robbery in his apartment. He is swayed away as there's distrust of him being an outsider. This isolates him and there is despair of not being able to be helped that his movie gives us.

Going along with isolating and feeling alone, there's another social issue here with repression and sexuality. Trelkovsky is taking over the apartment of Simone, who is a woman. When he starts to meet those that knew her, they are pushing him to order the same drink and cigarettes as her. Trelkovsky finds her dress in the wardrobe. The longer this goes on, the more that he starts to become like her. He tries to prevent this from happening, but I think even from the beginning, he might completely know his own sexual preference. There is also this interesting scene when he goes out with Stella as they get pretty hot and heavy in the theater which seems to complicate matters.

I think that is about all I want to delve into for the story here so I'm going to shift this over to the acting. I've already said that I'm really impressed with Polanski. I think he did an amazing job here with conveying what we need for this character. It is really a character study of him so everyone else is just in support. I like that Adjani is attracted him, but I'm not always sure if it is sexually or as a friend. She also helps to piece things together for him with Simone. Douglas is good as the landlord. Van Fleet helps to drive the character of Trelkovsky into despair with how she can make his life more difficult. The rest of the characters are also good in support for me including Winters.

This really isn't a movie that needs effects, so we don't get a lot of them. What we do get though is practical. Something that I do need to bring up is the cinematography. There is this amazing optical effect when Trelkovsky is asleep and reaches out for water on a chair he's using an end table. It looks two dimensional and I was impressed. We get another odd focus like this later that also worked for me. The rest of the cinematography to go along with this is good as well.

If I do have a gripe with this movie, it would be that it runs too long. The movie runs over 2 hours. I think that we could trim it to just less than 2 hours and it could run tighter. There are some things here that I don't think add much and really just pad the time out to be a bit too much. Not enough to ruin it, but I did lose interest as some things get to be repetitive for me.

In conclusion, I had high expectations coming in knowing that Polanski has done some amazing movies and the other two in this trilogy are good as well. This really has an great performance from him in the lead and I think that there's an interesting elements of social commentary that are still relevant today. The cinematography is pretty amazing on top of that if I'm going to be honest. It does run a bit long and the soundtrack just worked for what was needed. After this first viewing, this is my least favorite at the moment of this trio, but that's not to say I don't like it. I find this overall to still be a good movie. It will be one that I will revisit again now that I know how it plays out.


My Rating: 8 out of 10