Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Final Girl Film Club - The Tenant (1976)

Throughout October, Cody will be participating in the Final Girl Film Club SHOCKtober event with articles posted on a different movie every day of the month.

Today, Cody steps into Jay's territory to write about a Roman Polanski movie.

The Tenant is the capper to director Roman Polanski's "apartment trilogy", three movies connected only in that they are, to varying degrees, horror films, and all involve people running into trouble when they move into a new apartment. His preceding apartment movies were Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary's Baby (1968).

Polanski himself stars as the titular tenant, a man named Trelkovsky, an awkward, mousy, bumbling sort of fellow. He moves into an apartment whose previous resident, a woman named Simone Choule, attempted suicide by jumping from the window. Though Simone's unfortunate decision has left a vacancy in the building that he's now able to fill, Trelkovsky does clearly feel empathy for her, and decides to visit the comatose woman in the hospital.

At the hospital, Trelkovsky finds that a woman named Stella, who was friends with Simone, is also there to visit her, and I believe I've uncovered a hidden agenda within the SHOCKtober schedule. This is the third movie on the list, following Nosferatu (1979) and Possession (1981), to star Isabelle Adjani, and these must've been peppered through the line-up with the intention of making viewers Adjani fans. Well, it worked. She was stunningly beautiful in Nosferatu, she was awesome in Possession, she shows up here as Stella, looking all adorable with her funky geek chic style. Fine. I am a fan of Isabelle Adjani.

Even though Simone regains consciousness and lets out a horrible scream when she sees her visitors, this is really a good day for Trelkovsky. He's got a new apartment, he meets this attractive woman while visiting the previous tenant, is able to comfort her as she grieves her friend, she agrees to have drinks with him and then join him for a theatrical screening of Enter the Dragon, during which they get touchy feely with each other. Things seem to be going Trelkovsky's way in the early scenes of the movie, but it's all downhill for him from there.

Trelkovsky is notified that Simone Choule died soon after he and Stella left the hospital, and the more time he spends in his apartment, the more he notices strange things going on around him. People seem to have it out for him, his neighbors overreact to every little thing (real or imagined), he notices that some of them stand dead still in the building's community bathroom across the way from his window, staring at his apartment for hours. When his apartment is robbed, his landlord doesn't want him to call the police. In the film's most famous moment, Trelkovsky finds a tooth hidden inside a small hole in the apartment wall... and, after examining the tooth, he just sticks it back into the hole. As his paranoia increases, so does his obsession with Simone Choule. He begins to take on some of Simone's traits, which seems to be what some people want him to do, and may gradually be going insane.

A psychological thriller, The Tenant is a very good movie that is most enjoyable because of the darkly humorous approach it takes to the story. Beyond his skills as a writer/director, Polanski is also a fine actor, especially in comedic moments. One of my favorites is in the first scene, when Trelkovsky attempts to pet a dog that does not want him anywhere near it. Another is the smile he gives when Stella hugs him at Simone's bedside.

The Tenant's humorous side (particularly the moment with the dog) is also appreciated by my blog cohort Jay Burleson, the resident Polanski fan who has previously written about Frantic, The Fearless Vampire Killers, and Chinatown. I couldn't write about a Polanski movie without chatting to him about it first, and one interesting bit of information I learned from our conversation is that Trelkovsky and Stella going to see Enter the Dragon is a tribute to Bruce Lee, who had died a few years earlier and was friends with Polanski. I didn't know Polanski and Lee were friends myself, but Burleson told me that Lee taught Polanski some moves and Polanski was fond of the man, having a lot of nice things to say about him.

The "Polanski and Lee were pals" news to me ended our The Tenant discussion, because then we had to ponder how cool it would've been if the two had made a movie together, Polanski directing Lee in a great, action-packed thriller. The fact that such a collaboration doesn't exist feels like one of cinema's biggest missed opportunities.

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1 comment:

  1. I love roman polaski's works, but I've never seen this one before. sounds like your typical polanski but somehow your review makes it 'fun". Maybe I can look this one up.