Spoilers follow ...
- The Tenant review by NP
Well, this is excellent. French-Polish Roman Polanski directs and stars as shy and achingly polite bureaucrat Trelkovsky, who moves into an apartment owned by ‘the Concierge’ and Monsieur Zy (mighty Hollywood veterans Shelley Winters and Mervyn Douglas). The apartment is appallingly cramped, greasy and doesn’t even boast a toilet. Trelkovsky’s charming tolerance of the place and fellow tenants – as well as his boisterous and boorish work associates - is effective.
To make matters more awkward, the previous tenant, Simone (Dominique Poulange) jumped out of the window in a suicide attempt. A visit to the hospital reveals Simone to now be a howling, broken monster. He strikes up an awkward, but progressive relationship with Stella (Isabelle Adjani, frumped-up behind thick spectacles and a 1970’s curls, she gets gradually more bedraggled and beautiful as the story progresses).
The bullying ways of those around him, as well as his bouts of bad luck, conspire to throw Trelkovsky into a kind of chronic paranoia. It is a slow decline, and one in which his crumbling, squalid surroundings become a prison, a sick-house. He even sees phantoms of Simone unwrapping the bandages that encompass her and smiling provocatively, revealing a set of broken teeth. He flirts unsuccessfully with cross-dressing. He becomes violent. There is a certain inevitability to the horrific and shocking conclusion.
At 126 minutes, this is a long film. But it is sumptuous in its depiction of squalidity, expert in its depiction of a man losing his mind, so full of unexpected moments and so evocatively told, I cannot begrudge it a single moment.
The story is based upon the 1964 novel ‘Le locataire Chimérique’ by Roland Topor; amongst many other credits, Topor appeared as Renfield in Werner Herzog's 1979 ‘Nosferatu the Vampyre’. Good luck finding a copy for less than £100!
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