A Movie A Day: THE TENANT (1976)
I found a tooth in my apartment. It was in a hole.
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)
Monday, October 11th: NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)
Tuesday, October 12th: PROPHECY (1979)
Wednesday, October 13th: THE OTHER (1972)
Thursday, October 14th: THE MUMMY (1959)
Friday, October 15th: THE GORGON (1964)
Saturday, October 16th: MAD LOVE (1935)
Tomorrow is vintage freaky Jack Palance! See you then!
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Oct. 9, 2010, 10:32 p.m. CST
A little more "vintage" than what I'm used to, but I love the Halloween themed AMAD.
Oct. 9, 2010, 10:32 p.m. CST
Very, very true.
Oct. 9, 2010, 10:42 p.m. CST
by future help
Also love "Don't Look Now."
Oct. 9, 2010, 10:43 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
...would open up the usual AICN can of worms.
Oct. 9, 2010, 10:44 p.m. CST
...at "no one does it to you like Polanski." It's like somebody went back in time just to troll the future.
Oct. 9, 2010, 10:45 p.m. CST
Its really a rather dry movie, just a lot of beautiful photography of the scenic Italian landscapes... until that ending happens, and you sit up and yell "WTF?!" at your TV. one of my favorite endings, ever
Oct. 9, 2010, 11:28 p.m. CST
...on blu-ray again. After reading this article, I must say I'm happy that I couldn't find The Tenant to rent on iTunes or Amazon tonight.
Oct. 10, 2010, 12:03 a.m. CST
by nolan bautista
w/ a proper dose of black humor..and that ending! what a mind fuck!
Oct. 10, 2010, 12:09 a.m. CST
I'll watch anything with Adjani in it...but there are limits man.
Oct. 10, 2010, 12:25 a.m. CST
Sorry to hear not many enjoyed this film here. I found it to be darkly comic, haunting and existential; more than a little reminiscent of Kafka.
Oct. 10, 2010, 12:26 a.m. CST
"No one can drug and butt rape your kids like Polanski...nobody" fucking creep.
Oct. 10, 2010, 12:41 a.m. CST
What was up with that? I can buy the unexpected lapse into insanity but why all the Egyptian references? Am I missing something?
Oct. 10, 2010, 12:44 a.m. CST
by Arcadian Del Sol
color me disapointed.
Oct. 10, 2010, 12:45 a.m. CST
Watch "The Tenant" again. If you don't like it, watch it again. If you don't like it, watch it again. Till you like it.
Oct. 10, 2010, 1:34 a.m. CST
Not much going on in it...
Oct. 10, 2010, 2:09 a.m. CST
Maybe because I say this as a child and it scared the living daylight out of me! I 've seen it again like 10 years ago and was still creeped out by the ending even though for me the film had not aged well. But boy that ending really gets under my skin!!!
Oct. 10, 2010, 2:12 a.m. CST
Oct. 10, 2010, 2:19 a.m. CST
is one of his best films. After China Town it's my favorite Polanski films. Closely follewed by Rosemary's Baby and Repulsion. I never liked The Ninth Gate and even the classic Dance of the Vampires a.k.a The Fearless Vampire Killers. I think you might want to try seeing it again at a later date. You might find that it's just as good and as strong as his other classics. But then again; to each his own. Cheers from Amsterdam.
Oct. 10, 2010, 2:22 a.m. CST
is dog shit.
Oct. 10, 2010, 2:29 a.m. CST
Oct. 10, 2010, 2:29 a.m. CST
in the same vein that the Man with No Name Trilogy is? i think Rosemary's babe is the first part of the trilogy,Tenant the second,i dont remember which movie is the 3rd party.maybe ll look it later in imdb.
Oct. 10, 2010, 2:34 a.m. CST
THE TENANT is the last in the "trilogy", and ROSEMARY'S BABY is the middle one.
Oct. 10, 2010, 2:42 a.m. CST
So ironic, so fucking true, especially if your a little girl... Where's the Gary Glitter talkback?
Oct. 10, 2010, 3:06 a.m. CST
Oct. 10, 2010, 3:16 a.m. CST
Quint, what happened? How could you have been bored by it? You complain younger horror fans are bored by the slow pacing in RB and then turn around and say the same for "The Tenant"!! It works for me anyway, cos it's an intelligent, atmospheric mystery with lots of black humour and creeping paranoia... there's plenty going on to keep your interest. Anyone out there who hasn't seen it should do so and find out for themselves - sorry Quint but you got this one wrong!
Oct. 10, 2010, 3:30 a.m. CST
Oct. 10, 2010, 3:53 a.m. CST
Shame you didn't get this. I've always found it to be a very funny and dark comedy as well as a nightmarish scenario. There are so many great scenes, such as when the guy comes into the bar and buys everyone a drink, apart from the guy who is crying. So many completely off the wall weirdo bits too like the hieroglyphics, etc. It's beautifully shot too, I think they used one of those Louma cranes that was so revolutionary (Superman, Raiders, Outland, Tenebrae, etc). Plus it's got Adjani who is pretty easy to watch. I first saw this film when I was a teenager and there's something unique about it that just drew me in, you have to let it dictate the tempo, if you're out of sync with it or impatient or trying to second guess it then you'll be lost and/or bored.
Oct. 10, 2010, 4:54 a.m. CST
It's a decent film but really would be better suited to a vignette format or a Twilight Zone episode... I just don't think the subject matter and/or themes lend themselves to long subject...
Oct. 10, 2010, 5:56 a.m. CST
...One Deadly Summer...yum!
Oct. 10, 2010, 6:04 a.m. CST
and a great companion piece to Rosemarys Baby
Oct. 10, 2010, 7:10 a.m. CST
He can do it to me anytime...
Oct. 10, 2010, 7:16 a.m. CST
This month's list needs more Lee/Cushing, but I think I recall last year had a good amount..nice to see a lot of the ones here that scared the crap out of as a kid..
Oct. 10, 2010, 8:12 a.m. CST
Directs himself in his best performance. (channeling Woody Allen when building this character?) Just saw it a month ago for the first time. As far as the child fucking goes...I never feel more "douchelike" than after watching and enjoying polanski. Stunning how well humans can compartmentalize.
Oct. 10, 2010, 8:37 a.m. CST
by Sailor Rip
"Que Roman Polanski jokes in 5,4,3,..."
Oct. 10, 2010, 8:42 a.m. CST
by Sailor Rip
"Hold it there kitty cat." I'll always love Chinatown and his brief performance in it.
Oct. 10, 2010, 10:44 a.m. CST
Cue the dirty jokes in... <p> Like that?
Oct. 10, 2010, 11 a.m. CST
Only because you expressed doubt in your own convictions do I suggest you review Tenant with an analogy in mind: Jack Kirby's Thing: Paul Chadwick's Concrete :: Rosemary's Baby: Tenant In Rosemary's Baby the coven is so powerful and so accurate that they convoke the devil himself. In the Tenant the coven is feeble and has applied a binding spell to preserve their spirit beyond the mortality of their bodies. It goes awry because... Roman ponders for us "If you cut off my head do you say there is me and my head or do you say there is me and my body." We do not know where the soul is. We do know the soul moves with the whole body from Los Angeles to Paris if you get on a plane. If you feel as though a buried fetus and butchered wife were once flesh of your flesh, then... has your soul been diminished? The Tenant - as a film suggests a subtle horror that not only is magic imperfect, but that we surrender and inherit slivers of the soul clumsily tugged upon by amateurs. Tenant is immutably in my top ten film list. I'm biased when it comes to defending it.
Oct. 10, 2010, 11:02 a.m. CST
sorry my analogy grammar got broken by character limits. sigh.
Oct. 10, 2010, 11:03 a.m. CST
it was recently a line in BBC's being human "you can check out, but you can never leave."
Oct. 10, 2010, 11:10 a.m. CST
How the fuck don't you like the Tenant!!!! It's the fucking Tenant. Amazing film. I have never seen a film like it scary and funny at the same time. Polanski is making fun of Rosemary's Baby and doing it again at the same time. It's brilliant. It's like a commentary on that film whole being a different take on very similar material. The Tenant Rocks.
Oct. 10, 2010, 12:13 p.m. CST
You know the one, with the oversized mouth and fucked up teeth? Always messed with my head. But it's awesome when Polanski walks up to him and slaps him.
Oct. 10, 2010, 12:16 p.m. CST
I watched this for the first time a couple of years ago and it's a great example of a film that hasn't aged at all well.
Oct. 10, 2010, 12:31 p.m. CST
Oct. 10, 2010, 2:34 p.m. CST
What a complete fucking bore with no atmosphere. Seriously. The movie doesn't even start until about 50 minutes in. Rosemary's Baby is a true classic that manipulates human emotion and creates tension through the pacing of the film.. The House Of The Devil tried and failed. I almost believe it was so drawn out because the editor has no concept of how to edit.
Oct. 10, 2010, 3:36 p.m. CST
Better than Rosemary's baby, IMO. Creepier and more cerebral, less pulp. Both movies work partly because of their meticulous (slow) pacing - they don't make them like that anymore. The shot with the people standing at the windows still freaks me out.
Oct. 10, 2010, 4 p.m. CST
Can't believe House of the Devil gets so much indie horror cred. Boring, boring, boring.
Oct. 10, 2010, 4:06 p.m. CST
"If you cut off my head do you say there is me and my head or do you say there is me and my body?" This line is sampled in a Skinny Puppy song, and I always wondered where it came from...
Oct. 10, 2010, 4:21 p.m. CST
Seems Quit got a case of the Harrys, as in, he missed out understandign a great movie because of self-caused boredom the same way Harry slept throughout INCEPTION.
Oct. 10, 2010, 4:29 p.m. CST
You guys can just hand over your horror geek credentials. Hell, hand over your movie geek credentials as well.
Oct. 10, 2010, 6:12 p.m. CST
set this place off. <p>I guess all the anti-pedo folk left the site. <p>Never fear, though, CHOPPAH's here. <p>Fuck pedo Polanski.
Oct. 10, 2010, 6:26 p.m. CST
You can hear lines of dialogue from this flick in at least two of their songs. That's the reason I first saw it. "Fritter (Stella's Home)" is the most noticeable, but also the one you mentioned from "The Choke" along with that whole bit about the kidneys and stomach. Awesome flick. Real creepy imagery. Especially at the end. One of the most WTF moments in cinematic history.
Oct. 10, 2010, 7:03 p.m. CST
Head over to my blog.
Oct. 10, 2010, 7:16 p.m. CST
Oct. 10, 2010, 7:54 p.m. CST
... he could do the Superbowl halftime show, and he would get away with it. Just fucking arrest him or let him go. Stop this.
Oct. 10, 2010, 8:04 p.m. CST
by T 1000 xp professional
I thought it was one of his best. I might've even liked it more than this one. I'm also surprised that Knife in the Water and Frantic (with Harrison Ford oozing some of that golden charisma) don't get spoken about more often.
Oct. 11, 2010, 4:40 a.m. CST
Wasting my talents is the story of my life.
Oct. 11, 2010, 4:43 a.m. CST
Too true. FRANTIC is terribly underrated. FRANTIC was also one of those movies where Ford was trying to prove he was a real actor instead of just being Han Solo or Indian Jones. His urge to prove himself an actor stoped after PRESUMED INNOCENT, hwere he acted the shit out of his part and all the geeks and critics comented about the movie was his hair-do. Ford then said "fuck this shit, it's not worth the trouble" and became just an actor for a paycheck.
Oct. 11, 2010, 4:57 a.m. CST
I cannot uderstand how people can be bored with good movies. Specially if they are watching it for the first time. I can understand a certain boredom or inuit if one is already very familiar with the movie, that's natural. But for the first time? Não compreendo!
Oct. 11, 2010, 7:46 a.m. CST
Remember, humility in victory.
Oct. 11, 2010, 8:14 a.m. CST
horror movie fans don't make good horror movies. theyre too busy trying to recreate the movies they loved when they were 12 and forget to be original and forge an interesting story. HOTD was 90 minutes of recreating the look and feel of the late 70's to give "horror geeks" some kind of quasi-Carpenter experience. Recreating a time period or style is just self-masturbatory and a waste of time and resources. Everyone loses with this approace.
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