Saturday, October 22, 2011

Le locataire (1976) / The Tenant: Paranoid Roman Polanski

The Adventures of Tintin
If you've read Roger Ebert's review of this film maybe you think The Tenant (Le locataire) is an awful movie. The other possibility is to consider Ebert's review terrible which is probably the better option. Unlike the cases of praising movies, Roger Ebert often tends to lack arguments when criticizing films. And this time, it's hard to find even a single serious reason in his review against Roman Polanski's movie itself. Instead, the most remarkable flaw mentioned by Ebert seems to be that The Tenant is an embarrassment cause Polanski has done a film about a character like himself... The only reasonable explanation of Ebert's writing could be he has expected a lot better movie to follow Polanski's classic Chinatown.

With all of the above I don't want to say The Tenant (Le locataire) is a masterpiece because it is not. But it's also not such a horrible creation. The film is centered on Polish immigrant Trelkovsky (Roman Polanski himself) and his paranoia. Trelkovsky rents an apartment previously inhabited by a young woman who has committed suicide. His neighbours in the building are strange people hating and spying on each other. The only thing they love seems to be silence. Gradually, Trelkovsky decides that everybody in the house is against him and there is a huge plot involving even outsiders aiming his transformation into the suicide woman and forcing him to follow her sin.

The Tenant definitely has issues but it sports also some good performances, a decent plot and occasionally an unexpected scene or two. Roman Polanski puts a good performance of Trelkovsky. It could be due to similarities shared between the actor and the character but Polanski is a very good match for the role and it's hard to think of what could be a better replacement. Isabelle Adjani has a small part in the movie as a friend of the woman who has attempted suicide and Adjani is very charming and adorable, especially in the scenes at her home. And then we have Shelley Winters who is a convincingly dissatisfied concierge of the haunted building.

The plot of The Tenant is decent without being very original. It doesn't offer huge surprises and it's clear where it is going too early in the movie. There are particular episodes here and there that you won't see coming although it's hard to explicitly define them as good, rather the opposite: Trelkovsky slaps a child for a non-apparent reason and there are some double suicide attempts as well as replicated hospital visits. The Tenant has problems mainly with its ending sequences which although not fully predictable in their details are too weird and forced to be easily absorbed.

Despite its flaws, The Tenant creates a good account of contemporary alienation and selfishness. It may not be the most believable story of paranoid men but it offers considerable amount of shocking reality. Roman Polanski is probably at his acting best here although he has more than a couple of better films as far as directing and writing are concerned. If you love paranoid movies or you are among Polanski's die-hard fans, you should see The Tenant. For the rest of the average cinema lovers, it's hard to give a definitive recommendation so it's up to you and your sixth sense.


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