The Tenant Screen 7 articles

The Tenant

1976

The Tenant Poster
  • Everything except the dubbing of the French supporting cast is a model of craftsmanship, but as the plot escalates into increasingly arbitrary excesses of fantasy and heads for the predictable pay-off, the movie looks more and more like a potboiler.

  • To put it as crudely as the film does, this is the kind of violence that audiences pay to see, with ‘reality’ and ‘imagination’ slotted into separate compartments so that one can watch the hero’s agony from a safe voyeuristic distance. There is, to be sure, a moralistic point implied in much of this: the ‘unexplained’ ransacking of Trelkovsky’s flat is later echoed by his own ransacking of Stella’s flat in a paranoiac rage...

  • The second part tapers off into a routine psychological thriller, riddled with overwrought shock effects. The end result is somewhere between Franz Kafka and William Castle, but still worth seeing.

  • Understated, at least at the beginning, The Tenantis also unrelenting as the hapless Trelkovsky is flummoxed or humiliated by one unsettling interaction after another. (The stellar international cast includes Isabelle Adjani, Shelley Winters, and Melvyn Douglas.) Naturally, The Tenant is a comedy—inspired, perhaps, by the joke that Trelkovsky is nowhere at home (least of all in his own skin) or by the Kafka wisecrack "In the fight between you and the world, back the world."

  • Darkly funny (watch Polanski smack a kid! Try not to laugh!), frightening and imaginatively directed (Polanski's head bouncing like a basketball), the DostoyevskianThe Tenant remains supremely creepy.

  • Like Farrow's Rosemary, he begins to suspect his weirdo neighbors of harboring a conspiracy against him; and like Deneuve's Carole, his paranoia will steer him to madness. But where Rosemary's suspicions were proven correct and Carole's delusions were the product of a disturbed mind, Trelkovsky seems to go crazy simply because it's expected of him. It's this quality that makes the film so memorably bizarre as well as darkly funny; indeed, this may be the most Kafkaesque of all his feature films.

  • The most fascinating aspect of The Tenant is the general lack of ambiguity in the scenario: grim and inhospitable and xenophobic as those around him... may seem, Trelkovsky’s accusations are so off-the-wall, and his actions so increasingly wonky, that we’re not left to even entertain his thoughts. Rather than invited to share his paranoia, we experience the world through a knowingly mad lens.

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