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The Tenant (1976)
Le locataire (original title)
The Tenant (French: Le Locataire) is a 1976 psychological thriller/horror film d
irected by Roman Polanski based upon the 1964 novel Le locataire chimrique by Rol
and Topor. It is also known under the French title Le Locataire. It co-stars act
ress Isabelle Adjani. It is the last film in Polanski's "Apartment Trilogy", fol
lowing Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby. It was entered into the 1976 Cannes Film F
Roman Polanski ... Trelkovsky
Isabelle Adjani ... Stella
Melvyn Douglas ... Monsieur Zy
Jo Van Fleet ... Madame Dioz
Bernard Fresson ... Scope
Lila Kedrova ... Madame Gaderian
Claude Dauphin ... Husband at the accident
Claude Piplu ... Neighbor (as Claude Pieplu)
Rufus ... Georges Badar
Polanski receives no acting credit, despite the fact he plays the lead character
While the main character is clearly paranoid to some extent (as exemplified in t
he scene when he believes a neighbour is strangling him, when he is in fact show
n strangling himself), this film does not entirely reveal whether everything tak
es place in his head or if the strange events happening around him exist at leas
t partially, contrary to the previous entries in Polanski's "apartment trilogy."
Roman Polanski's 1976 English-language, Paris-set creepfest was adapted from a n
ovel by the French graphic artist Topor, but it may be the director's quintessen
tial movie. It's an exercise in urban paranoia and mental disintegration that ec
hoes or anticipates everything from Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby to Bitter Moon
and The Pianist. Indeed, the movie is a true psychodrama: Polanski himself plays
the eponymous protagonist, a furtive Polish-born Frenchman named Trelkovsky who
rents the apartment of a recent suicide and is gradually driven mad by his myst
eriously hostile neighbors.
Understated, at least at the beginning, The Tenantis also unrelenting as the hap
less Trelkovsky is flummoxed or humiliated by one unsettling interaction after a
nother. (The stellar international cast includes Isabelle Adjani, Shelley Winter
s, and Melvyn Douglas.) Naturally, The Tenant is a comedy inspired, perhaps, by
the joke that Trelkovsky is nowhere at home (least of all in his own skin) or by
the Kafka wisecrack "In the fight between you and the world, back the world."
The Tenant, perhaps Polanski's most personal work, is a darkly witty nightmare s
tarring the director himself as a Parisian office worker who moves into an apart
ment recently vacated by a suicide victim. As he idly asks around about what hap
pened, Polanski inadvertently irritates his friends and neighbors, who complain
that the timid little man is too brash. Released on the heels of Chinatown, The
Tenant was Polanski's attempt to return to the pointed surrealism of his early s
horts and thereby reclaim his European New Wave credibility. Though the result i
s too slow and curious, with a weak lead performance by the writer-director, The
Tenant's tone of abstracted anxiety is distinctive, and its central message, th
at the obnoxious define the world for everyone else, provides another tile in Po

lanski's career mosaic of paranoia and power brokerage.