Monday, October 19, 2009

The Tenant

Le Locataire; Thriller-drama, France, 1976; D: Roman Polanski, S: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Shelley Winters, Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet, Lila Kedrova

Paris. Trelkovsky arrives to an apartment complex to rent a flat since the previous tenant, Simone, mysteriously jumped out of window and ended up badly hurt in the hospital. He visits here there and meets her friend, Stella, with whom he starts an affair. When Simone dies, he Mr. Zy rents him the apartment. But strange things start to appear: Trelkovsky finds a tooth hidden in a hole in the wall of his apartment, someone breaks in and one night there are even hieroglyphs there. Suspecting the neighbors all want to force him jump out from the window like Simone, he slowly goes mad. He dresses up like a woman and jumps out of the window. Since he survived, he jumps again. In the hospital, all in bandages, he spots himself and Stella visiting him there.

There's an unwritten rule that the best thrillers are mostly the ones that feature or exploit the human fears of helplessness. Roman Polanski's psychological thriller-drama "The Tenant" handles that theme with taste, measure and style, featuring an easily identifiable urban story about the problems of renting a good apartment. With a sustained, but creepy mood, the story unfolds just right, seizing attention even when nothing is going on, feeding of the excellent, masterfully placed small details revolving around the scary notion of living in a 'cursed' place where the previous tenant just recently committed suicide (Trelkovsky unpacks his photographs and personal belongings in the new apartment; he carries the bags full of garbage down the stairs but it slowly falls out on his feet from a hole; when the bartender offers him Marlboro cigarettes because the previous (deceased) tenant also smoked them, he refuses to avoid the similarities). The environment he is in seems surprisingly realistic, his elegant style is refreshing whereas the story always plays with two possibilities: is Trelkovsky crazy or are his neighbors really trying to kill him? Maybe the pay-off doesn't come off to the fullest, yet it features a haunting, disgusting but fascinating end, one so twisted in playing with synchronicity and deja-vu that it hasn't been matched ever since "Donnie Darko".


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