This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Tenant (1976)







"Beautiful. Adorable. Goddess. Divine. Divine! I think I'm pregnant."
-Mr. Trelkovsky, looking in a mirror.



All great filmmakers achieve that label by putting themselves and their experiences into their works. Roman Polanski is anything but the exception. His childhood was spent surviving the Holocaust and his films such as Knife in the Water (1962) and, more famously, The Pianist (2002) reflect survival amist horrible events. Polanski's film version of Macbeth (1971) was his first movie since the Manson killing spree which claimed his wife Sharon Tate and their unborn child in 1969 and is viewed by some as his response to that tragedy.
Just prior to that, Polanski shot to the A-list with the classic Rosemary's Baby (1968). Following Tate's death, Polanski seemed to refrain from making films in Hollywood, with the exception of the great film noir Chinatown (1974). His followup to that triumph, was The Tenant, based on a novel by Roland Topor.
Polanski plays Mr. Trelkovsky, an unassuming man who rents an apartment in Paris. He quickly learns that its previous occupant, one Simone Choule, was hospitalized after throwing herself from the apartment window.
Trelkovsky becomes smitten with Simone's friend Stella (Isabelle Adjani) and they later visit Simone at the hospital. Her body covered in bandages, Simone cries out upon seeing Trelkovsky and then dies.
Later on, Trelkovsky becomes more irritated with his neighbors, as well as his landord M. Zy (Melvyn Douglas) and the Concierge (Shelley Winters) when they all claim he makes too much noise. Trelkovsky's mental state deteriorates further when his apartment is broken into, which everyone reacts to with indifference. Eventually, he alienates all he comes into contact with, including Stella.
He later comes to the conclusion that they wish him to become like Simone. Almost as if to mock their efforts, Trelkovsky buys women's clothing for himself. After he is hit by a car one evening, he is hospitalized but not seriously injured. After he returns home, Trelkovsky dresses up again and throws himself from the window, just like Simone, a number of times before he finds himself in the hospital, covered head to toe in bandages (like Simone).
In the film's Twilight Zone-esque ending, Trelkovsky sees Stella and himself through his bandages before crying out.
More than any other film on this list, I'm surprised this didn't make a great impression when it hit theaters. It's as intense as Rosemary's Baby and has the same psychological tones as Polanski's earlier movie Repulsion (1965). Perhaps people wanted another elaborate Hollywood production after Chinatown (The Tenant was shot entirely in Paris).
Polanski's friend Stanley Kubrick cited this film as inspiration for how he would film The Shining (1980) and, almost as if he were returning the favor, Polanski cited Kubrick's film Barry Lyndon (1975) as inspiration for his later film Tess (1979).
I must also note that The Tenant was the last film Polanski made before his 1977 rape of teenage model Samantha Geimer in California, which would lead to him going to France to avoid American authorities. Despite being briefly placed under arrest in Switzerland in 2009, the director remains persona non grata in the U.S.
It would be foolish to say that Polanski isn't a great filmmaker but it speaks of a double standard (or Hollywood's sexism?) that he can rape a girl and go on to win an Oscar and retain the list of celebrity fans who want to work with him, while, say, Meg Ryan basically ends her reign as 'America's Sweetheart' (and, thus, her bankability) by having consensual sex with Russell Crowe.