Roman Polanski was barred from the United States for seducing a young girl one year after he produced the film entitled “The Tenant.” He never returned, but continued his career in Europe.
“The Tenant” is typical of the bizarre films he creates, often using themes of loneliness and forced conformity to create characters who provoke sympathy and often disdain from viewers.
Roman Polanski stars in his own film as Trelkovsky, a Polish immigrant who lives in Paris. The viewer is favored with several scenes in the City of Light, particularly the Eiffel Tower in the distance as the lonely Trelkovsky walks the city streets.
Trelkovsky manages to rent an expensive apartment, the owner of which is a Monsieur Zy played by American actor Melvyn Douglas. We learn that the previous female occupant of the apartment committed suicide by jumping out of the apartment window. Another American actress, Shelley Winters, is also cast in the film in the part of the Concierge of the apartment building. The name Jo Van Fleet is also known in American cinema; Polansky chose her to be a tenant in the same apartment building. It is highly probable that Polansky was thereafter unable to hire these or any other American film stars for his outre productions.
Trelkovsky is soon chastised by Monsieur Zy for the noise created when he held a housewarming party for his fellow workers, even though he promised never to break Monsieur Zy’s rules for admission. His guests are crass, non-caring human beings who enjoy the plight of their host, even as they leave the premises. The other tenants view him hostilely, particularly when he refuses to sign a petition against a tenant whom he does not even know.
Trelkovsky begins to be obsessed by the former tenant, named Simone, especially because her clothing still hangs in the closet. Here comes the bizarre part: Trelkovsky buys a wig, dons Simone’s dresses, paints his fingernails red, and uses heavy makeup, only to sit in the apartment and stare across the courtyard at the apartment’s only toilet facilities which reveal other tenants staring back at him. Of course, he is again warned by Monsieur Zy that the rule of not having female guests has been broken.
Trelkovsky’s mental state gradually deteriorates as he imagines that the other tenants are hoping that he will repeat the fate of the previous tenant and commit suicide.
One wonders what in Roman Polanski’s life prompted him to conjure up the unconventional outpourings of his highly intelligent mind. For those who like this genre, Polanski’s film, both before and after his expulsion from the United States, can be viewed on Netflix.
The Tenant by Roman Polanski (1976)