A Movie A Day: THE TENANT (1976) I found a tooth in my apartment. It was in a hole.
Published at: Oct. 9, 2010, 10:28 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Day: Halloween 2010 edition!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf or streamed via Netflix Instant and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
I sometimes hear horror fans, many of them younger fans, complain about how boring ROSEMARY’S BABY is. I can’t fathom being bored by that film… the central performances by Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, the slow, methodical descent into hell, the iconic ending… all that makes it an endlessly fascinating movie to me.
So, when I say Roman Polanski’s THE TENANT bored me out of my mind I want you guys to understand I’m not the kind of film watcher that is easily dissuaded by more cerebral horror or a deliberate pace on a genre film.
I can’t help but feel a little bad for not digging the movie. It’s very possible I just wasn’t in the mood for it, but the movie lost me about 30 minutes in after a great opening introducing a creepy apartment complex in Paris filled with mysterious tenants. Polanski sets up a mystery to be solved… A single man takes an apartment recently vacated by a suicide. But the suicide doesn’t really add up. The people in the apartment are bizarre, obsessed with quiet… oh, and Polanski finds a tooth hidden in a hole behind the wardrobe.
But after all the set up we get an hour of Polanski romancing a friend of the suicide as he slowly loses his grip on sanity. In the last half hour that lost grip makes for some really creepy imagery, but the hour it takes to get there felt like two.
This felt like Polanski trying to strike the same note that he struck a hundred times better with Rosemary’s Baby. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the ambiguity of the story. In the movie Polanski’s character, Trelkovsky, starts as a mild-mannered introvert and begins to think his neighbors and landlord are trying to turn him into the previous tenant and drive him to suicide.
He’s got a hell of an arc in the movie, going from an average guy to a cross-dressing paranoid lunatic over the course of 125 minutes and like I mentioned above the imagery of his delusions is pretty striking.
There’s one particular shot of Polanski looking out a window and seeing himself watching him from a window across the way that got to me. There’s also another moment when a bouncing ball turns into a decapitated head. Great moments, but I wasn’t plugged into the whole so I didn’t find these bright spots worth the rest of the journey.
Ambiguity is a big part of this film, just as it is in Rosemary’s Baby. Are the creepy neighbors out to get him or is he projecting that onto their stricter-than-usual characters? I liked that aspect, but it takes too long to resolve and when it finally does I couldn’t shake the feeling of just being glad the movie was ending.
The finale itself is pretty fantastic, I have to say. When Trelkovsky goes up the stairs the second time I was actually pretty impressed with how everything was wrapping up, but like I said above the overriding feeling was just gratitude that the film was finally coming to an end.
It was fun seeing Shelley Winters pop up as the rude concierge of the apartment complex, but she’s in maybe 5 minutes of the movie. Same goes for Melvyn Douglas playing the landlord from hell. He’s great when he’s in the movie, but he felt underused.
The beautiful Isabelle Adjani (NOSFERATU) pops up as Polanski’s love interest. She’s the innocent of the story, possibly Trelkovsky’s only salvation. If that had been the main thrust of the movie I could have been along for the ride, but Polanski insists on a scattershot approach, throwing as much at the audience as possible. That helps in creating a “What the fuck is going on here?” atmosphere, but that’s a double-edged sword. In my case it caused me to disconnect from the film.
Final Thoughts: It’s possible I may re-watch this film at another point and fully get it, love it, want to marry it. I can’t tell you. It’s not like I had my mind on other things when I sat down to watch this movie, but it didn’t engage me. I can appreciate what Polanski was going after, but it didn’t work for this constant viewer. We have another of Polanski’s films coming up in a week or so that I hope I don’t feel the same way about.
Currently in print on DVD: NO Currently available on Netflix Instant: NO
Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles:
Sunday, October 10th: MAN IN THE ATTIC (1953)