Favorites: The Tenant
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Roland Topor, Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski
Produced by Andrew Braunsberg, Alain Sarde, Hercules Bellville
Starring Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet, Shelley Winters, Bernard Fresson, Romain Bouteille, Rufus
Nigh every shot of Polanski's masterful castigation against ethno-national prejudice and personal paranoia brims with allusive guile and dudgeon, starring Romek as a meek immigrant clerk in oppugnant Paris who procures at some stiff expense a slightly sordid apartment suite of exiguous amenities, whose previous resident mysteriously defenestrated herself. Isolated by and persecuted for his exogenous condition, this chary outsider finds little more camaraderie among his bawdily contumelious colleagues (Fresson, Bouteille, et al.) than with his hostile landlord (Douglas), concierge (Winters) and fellow tenants, who reprehend him for disturbances minor, blameless and seemingly false. His sole cordial connection's established by romancing a gorgeous, genial friend (Adjani) of the hospitalized anterior lessee, who he visits under friendly pretenses to sate his curiosity...but as his anxieties and rancor swell with the contumely he sustains, the timid immigrant's adoption of his predecessor's traits and trappings proves as much a means of relation as the vessel of his nascent madness. Not too many artists have so scathingly anatomized both societal biases and paranoid psychosis in direct correlation as had Romek as one of his continent's thorniest migrants, and while his third flamboyant address of disquiet in apartmental confines (torn from Panic Movement author Topor's novel Le locataire chimérique) suffered almost unanimous censure by obtuse critics and an indifferent public, it may be his thematically richest offering, conscientiously cut and composed with an unerringly equivocal eye for intimation and effect. As fine in the lead as his picture's most surreal flourishes, the auteur's very nearly upstaged by his fantastic cast, all clownishly dubbed in English to emphasize their characters' essential shallowness. Almost incalculable in its influence (most famously manifest in certain pictures by Lynch and the Coens), Polanski's refracted exposure of collective animus and the persecution complex submits in Kafkaesque candor a critical question concerning character: exactly what measure of one's identity is informed and defined by perceived persecution?
Recommended for a double feature paired with Repulsion, Images, Barton Fink, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive...