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The Tenant

review by Zach B.



MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 125 minutes

Starring: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet, Bernard Fresson and Shelley Winters

Screenplay by: Gerard Brach and Roman Polanski
Based on the novel by: Roland Topor

Directed by: Roman Polanski


Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $9.99

Features: Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Mono, French Mono, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (18 Scenes)

Released: July 1st, 2003



Trelkovsky (Roman Polanski) is a shy file clerk who rents an apartment in France. Sounds normal enough, right? Not quite. The previous person in the apartment Trelkovsky rented out committed suicide. And soon enough, Trelkovsky begins to become paranoid and afraid of what surrounds his new home and the recent suicide. This includes other people living in the building and their own quirks and thoughts, but it mainly lies within the previous tenant, Simone. Trelkovsky begins a weird obsession with her that results in some pretty crazy things. Trelkovsky really isn't going crazy though and is still that sane, quiet file clerk... or is he?

Sorry to be so vague in the film's plot description, but it's so hard to talk about this movie without giving too much away since it does contain a lot as far as its characters and it has plenty of interesting moments as well as twists. This was the film Roman Polanski made a little bit before his 1977 sex scandal which would make him flee to Paris. While it's not a Polanski film mentioned in the same breath as "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown," "Tess" and more recently, "The Pianist," it's a very strong movie by the director and probably should be mentioned among his other classics.

What I loved about "The Tenant" is how it really gets under your skin. The final film in Polanski's unofficial trilogy that began with "Repulsion" and "Rosemary's Baby," "The Tenant" is certainly an interesting thriller that not only has its fair share of suspense, it also has some great dark humor. The film was based on the novel by Roland Topor, and the screenplay was written by Polanski and long time friend/collaborator Gerard Brach. Besides some tip-top dialogue that rings eerily true and some black humor, what I loved so much about the writing is how strongly the characters were developed. There is quite an interesting cast of characters in this movie, all unique and for the most part strange, and how they work within the story and through Trelkovsky is pretty ingenious. The characters are not only effective, but quite fresh in keeping interest and making the movie tick.

The film is a bit of a mystery though, and with that said, it's also a nail-biting thriller. The story is well-crafted and can actually be pretty scary (some of you may want to watch it with a few other people and/or with a bright light on), not to mention will always keep you guessing. The film's ending is definitely original and while I won't ruin it here, I'm sure some of you who have never seen the movie are definitely in for a shock (I personally loved the ending). It may creep you out, it may not... but it will surely get you thinking about the movie as a whole. The film's story and characters are nothing short of exceptional, and really like nothing you've ever seen before on film and probably will never see again.

Polanski as a director does some of his finest work here and once again proves what's he great at: creating a specific, intriguing atmosphere that really captures the audience. But this atmosphere isn't like any other. It's one that at times is a bit confusing, all among its mystery but also isolated in key areas. The mood Polanski sets can be tense, let alone very haunting. The film is expertly shot with some really gripping visuals, wonderful editing and a great sense of pacing. The film is pretty even in its approach and nature and truly is Polanski in his prime.

The acting makes everything come together though - every single actor in this movie is stupdendous, as this is one well cast film. The highlight though is definitely Polanski himself - one of the rare writer/directors who are also damn fine actors. Polanski's portrayl as Trelkovsky is nothing short of extraordinary. He captures the character's meekness, normal qualities and insecuirities quite well. But with that said, he also captures the polar opposites - his madness and intensity is just great as you really believe Polanski as this character complete with special tendacies. The supporting performances are equally outstanding as these actors bring such unique voices to their roles. Those actors include Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Bernard Freeson, Jo Van Fleet and Shelley Winters (who's also quite funny).

"The Tenant" is stylish in its own way, and not everyone will understand it or enjoy what it's all about. The film is pretty disturbing, but if you love Polanski or something very different that is bound to really get to you, make you think and entertain you, then you must check out "The Tenant." You won't regret seeing one of Polanski's finest, and perhaps most overlooked.


Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, I was quite impressed how great "The Tenant" looked. The flaws are minor: edge halos are very slight, there is only a little bit of noise and blemishes and dirt pieces pop up sporadically but are never quite distracting. Everything else about this transfer is wonderful. For a film that's over twenty-five years old, it is very sharp and really looks great. The grain doesn't amount too much, there is no edge enhancment and detail is quite good. Color saturation looks very bold and is quite strong, while fleshtones are pretty flawless. The film's color schemes and visuals are nicely captured and again, I'm quite impressed. No one should be disappointed by this transfer.


Don't expect much here - you have a choice of two Mono tracks - one in English and one in French. Fidelity is only average and the dyanmics of the tracks are obviously limited. Still, the music resonates as it is very haunting, the sound effects won't blow you away but sound fine and do work within the conext and the dialogue is clear and very easy to hear. It's all unified, crisp and comes together in a fine manner. The tracks aren't much, but they get the job done as far as creeping you out (you don't always need big mixes for that!) - I guarantee the screams in this movie will REALLY get to you. Also included are English subtitles on the DVD and English closed captions through your television set.


Yep, you get one thing! A Theatrical Trailer in anamorphic widescreen (it looks great to boot!). It also lasts exactly a minute.


Polanski fans are sure going to want to pick this one up, and if you're curious and haven't seen the movie, why not you too? The list price of $9.99 is a steal, and this is a catalog title done right. The audio is fine, the transfer looks great and while the only supplement is the trailer, you're pretty much paying for a great movie. Given that I've seen this title as low as 7 dollars, I highly suggest that any film fan add this DVD to his or her library. You won't be disapponted!