View Full Version : The Tenant

07-27-2003, 01:22 PM
The Tenant just saw a release in R1. I’m not hugely knowledgeable on Polanski, and his previous “classic”, Rosemary’s Baby, was something I recently watched and didn’t really enjoy. This film comes 8 years after Rosemary’s Baby, and three years before his classic (why the heck is it not on DVD!) “Tess” with Nastassija Kinski in all her nubile glory.

My frame of reference for Polanski then is rather small. This can sometimes be a good thing, because you can take the film for what it is worth, without a bunch of pre-conceptions.

I would be remiss if I did not say just exactly why I bought this DVD. You see, I was suckered by the price! DDD are putting this one out at $5.99. Now, that beats Diamond, that beats Alpha and the rest of them! This movie is CHEAP. It was not going to have to work very hard to earn its place on my shelf, at the price; I can afford to blow the cash.

So it was with an open mind that I went into this one. It was three in the morning when I started, and the sun was just starting to rise when it was done. Perhaps that added to the atmosphere of the thing. Either way – let’s talk about this cheap addition to DVD.


Polanski stars in this movie as a young man (Trelkovsky) who is looking for an apartment to rent in Paris. Of course, he has to explain the accent, so his character is a Polish immigrant (“a French citizen”, we are often reminded).

Trelkovsky finds an apartment for rent, not in the least phased by the news that the previous tenant had tried to commit suicide by jumping out the window. He quickly moves in after we get to meet some of the characters who will play a part in the film. These include the always-excellent Shelly Winters as “The Concierge” (how I love her work in Alfie), and Isabelle Adjani (Diabolique) who is always just gorgeous to look at, as Stella.

Curious about the previous tenant, Trelkovsky pretends to be a friend of the suicide victim and visits her in hospital. What he finds is a crippled woman lying in bed, with a front tooth missing (this is relevant later on in the film). While there, he meets Stella, who was also a friend of the previous tenant.

Stella and Trelkovsky sort of hit it off, and start an on-again off-again relationship. Trelkovsky meets his strange fellow tenants one by one, and slowly gets drawn into the world and life of the suicide victim whose home he is occupying.

But what, or whom, drove her to do it?

Image Quality

Superb. Really really good. Widescreen, the whole ten yards. The merest of speckles maybe once or twice in the film, but that’s it. Simply marvelous.


Dolby Stereo. Very nice, no hiss, and everything clear. Also has French language option.

Supplemental Material

Bargain basement trailer only. And even then, the trailer runs for 60 seconds only, and mostly advertises Polanski, not the film.

Final Thoughts

This film reminded me a lot of Rosemary’s Baby. It is set in a tenement building, with strange neighbors and a house with a personality, along with creaking and knocking sounds from nowhere. However, unlike the expansive rooms of Rosemary’s Baby, the building and rooms here are confining, claustrophobic. Dirt is everywhere (Trelkovsky moves a picture at one point, and it leaves a huge white stain on the wall) water pipes clank, the sink is slimy. This oppressive feel was clearly intentional, as it plays into the fears and danger felt by Trelkovsky.

I swear, there were times when I felt as though I was watching a Cronenberg film. Trelkovsky makes a discovery in the wall of his apartment that seems as though it could only come from the mind of the great Canadian Director. It’s a wonderfully surreal moment that elevates this film above what it might easily have been.

The people Trelkovsky is living with seem to come across as very strange indeed, with their petitions, strange goings on in distant rooms, and crippled children. But, as you’re watching it, they’re never really as strange as you want them to be – which is all part of the magic of this film.

Along with the psychological horror, we even have some early humor (the humor drains from the film by the final third, but early on we get to see Trelkovsky light-hearted and even comedic.) A perfect example of the bright humor is after the hospital visit where he meets Stella. They decide to go the movies together, where she starts grabbing his crotch, and he’s massaging her breasts. It’s all “back seat of the movies” stuff. But the funny thing is, this whole sequence takes place with a background of Bruce Lee in a fighting scene. As we see Trelkovsky grabbing, we’ll pan to the screen with Lee’s hands breaking arms, busting heads and offing all comers. All of the wonderfully weirdly dubbed booms and bangs from the Lee film are intact, so we have a choreography that is a joy to behold, and brings quite a smile.

Later, we have a scene of Trelkovsky taking his garbage down the stairs, orange peels, cabbage leaves and other bits of fruit leaking from the bottom of the bag as he goes – all the while he is following his landlord down the stairs, explaining that he is, indeed, a good tenant.

Polanski is wonderful as the lead, dry, even a bit solemn, but perhaps just alienated in France without friends. Actually, he looks like an imp, with his little thin frame, and a huge nose.

There are a lot of similarities too with Rear Window, the Hitchcock classic. However, Rear Window is essentially a film about a guy sitting in his apartment looking OUT at all the other apartments around him. The Tenant is a film about all the other apartments looking IN to the one rented by Trelkovsky. It’s a neat twist, adding to the paranoia.

The final third of the film then takes a darker turn, as we move from understanding a little about Trelkovsky’s situation to the “action”. Of course, there is precious little action in this film – it’s a psychological thriller, with subtleties. Suffice it to say, the final third begins to show us a new side of Trelkovsky, as the story plays out.

Just a couple more things – this is a long film at two hours and five minutes, but it really did not feel long. The pacing is really superb, and I was not bored once.

Secondly, my knowledge of this film is almost zero (apart from having watched it the once), but I would swear this film was dubbed, and not too successfully, either. A party scene at Trelkovsky’s apartment, for instance, has some really grating dubbing for a couple of the female characters. Lip-synching is sometimes a problem too. Either it is a foreign film dubbed totally into English, or voiceovers were done for some of the characters after the fact – whatever, be aware that at times, it comes across as though the same dubbing team that worked on Fulci’s films have been hired here.

The Tenant then, is a pretty good film. I just cannot discount the pricing, and at $5.99 you’d be crazy not to get it. Oh yeah, it’s bare bones, but the transfer is sweet, and the sound is quite good too. The story totally works as well. Strangely, I highly recommend it to Cronenberg fans. It’s not a hardcore Cronenbergian effort, but it has a flavoring, and that’s really neat.

All in all – I enjoyed it, even more so than Rosemary’s Baby. That may be partly due to the number of times I’ve seen Rosemary’s Baby, maybe I’m just bored with it. This one was new to me, and it benefits from that. Go ahead and pick this one up, it’s a nice way to spend a couple of hours. Recommended.

07-28-2003, 07:41 PM
Still trying to get my hands on this disc. I haven't seen The Tenant in ages though, but I clearly remember the ending ...
Great review dwatts :)

07-28-2003, 09:58 PM
Damn - someone read it!

:lol: :lol: :lol:

07-29-2003, 12:46 AM
Hah! Pretty good review Dwatts. I agree with your review for the most part but I liked Rosemary's Baby way more than this. For the price you can't go wrong with this DVD as Dwatts stated.

07-30-2003, 03:00 PM
This is an excellent review. Really makes me want to watch this one again.