[box cover]

The Tenant

The secret to director Roman Polanski's gothic sensibility is that one always gets the sense that no matter how harsh the situation is, part of Polanski is laughing at it — it's why films like Rosemary's Baby are so effective. That dark sensibility also lends itself well to The Tenant (1976), a minor entry in the Oscar winner's canon, but no less interesting. Polanski stars as Trelkovsky, a young man who plans to rent a particular flat in Paris but finds that the previous renter jumped out the window. He gets the apartment, but then finds himself curious about the last tenant, Simone, and thus goes to the hospital she's kept at only to run into Stella (Isabella Adjani), a friend of the girl. Since Stella's an attractive woman, Trelkovsky feels compelled to pretend he knows the heavily bandaged Simone, really intent on getting to know Stella better (the two go to a screening of Enter the Dragon afterwards). But once he moves in to the flat, it seems all of the neighbors are constantly concerned about noise. What's more, the shared bathroom across the way is always occupied by people who just stand in it — motionless. Slowly, Trelkovsky loses his mind as he feels trapped into acting like Simone; first by buying her brand of cigarettes and then by dressing like her. It's not long before the window starts calling to him. Based on Roland Topor's novel, The Tenant seems drawn from both the popular Italian Giallos of the day (like Deep Red) as well as Russian literature, all of which is then infused with Polanski's cinematic interests with isolation, claustrophobia, and the absurd. The film parallels Polanski's early work Repulsion (1965), but in The Tenant the gothic sensibilities are darker (perhaps because the director knew he was inflicting it upon himself). As such — especially when Trelkovsky begins dressing like Simone in full drag — it comes across as more humorous than disturbing, but Polanski maintains a palpable of dread as the story draws towards the nearly inescapable conclusion. The picture also has a perfect denouement; it's one of the best endings of any thriller ever. Paramount presents The Tenant in monaural English and French DD 2.0 tracks (since the film was shot abroad, and many of the French actors dubbed their own voices, there are benefits to both tracks) with optional English subtitles. The only extra is a theatrical trailer (running a minute), which has the tag-line "No one does it to you like Roman Polanski." Keep-case.
—DSH



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