Decades Blogathon – The Tenant (1976)

Decades Blogathon Banner 20161976 2Hot diggity, it’s already day five of the Decades Blogathon – 6 edition – hosted by myself and the awesome Tom from Digital Shortbread. That means we’re already half way through! The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the sixth year of the decade. Tom and I will run a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post); and I’m delighted to welcome Jordan from Epileptic Moondancer to present his views on Roman Polanski’s unnerving psychological drama The Tenant.

Years ago, I introduced myself to film by rifling through the filmographies of Kubrick and Gilliam. Once that was done, I wanted to find another director whose films I could work through.

Through a Google search using the phrase ‘mind-f**k movies’ I came across Repulsion, perhaps Polanski’s best film. The atmosphere and the camerawork instantly hyptonised me and after watching the film the next day for a second time I was left wanting more.

The Tenant Poster

Made about a decade after Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant was a return to familiar territory after the brilliant noir-homage that is Chinatown. It is a simple story about isolation and alienation, and their possible consequences.

It is about a man who manages to rent an apartment in France, where it is apparently hard to find an apartment. While Mr Trelkovsky manages to find an apartment, it is instantly noticeable that there is something a little strange about the building, the least of which is its incredibly strict rules, such as no female guests at night.

The Tenant

And that is only the start. With a perpetually annoyed looking concierge, the entire apartment seems to have something against Trelkovsky as soon as he moves in, much to his dismay and confusion.

The best part about the story is how slowly Polanski peels away the layers, gradually sinking into creepy and unsettling territory, where he has shone the brightest in the past. His character is a shy, honest man whose friends aren’t real friends, but hey, it’s better than being alone. They take advantage of him and mock him, while his neighbours seem to turn against him. Sudden complaints made against him that he knows are false cause him to become paranoid about everything and everyone in the building. The final act isn’t as thrilling as Repulsion or Rosemary’s Baby, but it is a creative and bizarre way to display the way paranoia and delusion can take over his psyche.

The Tenant

Polanski is great as the main character, who must be in every scene in the movie. He underplays this character well, as this is a man who would prefer to let people run over him than have his own way, even by supposed friends. The concierge is also memorable, played by Shelly Winters, who has a consistent hateful gaze, often directed towards Trelkovsky from the beginning of the film.

This is one of those open-ended movies that doesn’t smack of laziness; in fact the very opposite. It invites thought and introspection and for me several rewatches. If you like Polanski’s greats from the ’60s, this one is essential viewing.


  1. vinnieh · May 20, 2016

    I really enjoyed reading this review, I remember the atmosphere in this movie being really creepy and unsettling.

    • Jordan Dodd · May 21, 2016

      Thanks Vinnie. The atmosphere certainly is creepy, I think Polanski was one of the best in creating that sort of feeling. Repulsion, Rosemary’s baby and this are all very unsettling. Especially Repulsion.

      • vinnieh · May 21, 2016

        He knows how to crank up claustrophobia that’s for sure.

  2. Mark Walker · May 20, 2016

    I own this film, Jordan, but I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t managed to watch it yet. I am drawn to it but never quite been in the right frame of mind. Looks like a must, though.

    • Jordan Dodd · May 21, 2016

      Oh it is totally a must mate, IMO this is his 4th best film, 1. Repulsion 2. Chinatown 3. Rosemary’s Baby 4. This. I dunno what other Polanski movies you’ve seen but this one is a must if you like any of his work. Hope to read about it soon on your site mate

      • Mark Walker · May 21, 2016

        I’ve seen a great number of Polanski’s films, man. But it’s actually Repulsion and The Tenant that have eluded me. I do have them in my collection, though, so I don’t have to go far.

      • Jordan Dodd · May 22, 2016

        Oh man, you gotta see Repulsion! His best, so freaking creepy. Have you seen Knife in the Water? That is quite good too

      • Mark Walker · May 22, 2016

        I keep hearing Repulsion is quite special. Is Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant not supposed to be a loose trilogy? I think I remember reading that somewhere.

        I seen Knife in the Water a while back. It’s superb, man. Solid little thriller. One of my favourites from Polanski is actually Death and the Maiden but I think most people overlooked it.

      • Jordan Dodd · May 23, 2016

        That is one of the few I haven’t seen. And yeah you could call those three a trilogy. They have nothing to do with each other, but all share a very unsettling tone

  3. Zoë · May 20, 2016

    Great work! Yet another film I will have to check out!

    • Jordan Dodd · May 21, 2016

      Thanks Zoë 🙂 If you have seen and liked anything by Polanski, then this is essential viewing

  4. Aurora · May 20, 2016

    Hi there. Is it too late to submit an entry? If not then I’d like to do something on DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936) – assuming you mean any movie released in a year that ends in “6”. Thanks.

    Once Upon a Screen

    • Tom · May 21, 2016

      Hi there Aurora, unfortunately yes we have all our spots filled now. Thank you very much for your interest though!

  5. le0pard13 · May 20, 2016

    Essential Roman Polanski viewing is right. Fine review, Jordan.

    • Jordan Dodd · May 21, 2016

      Thanks mate. I really liked what he did with the ending too

  6. Tom · May 20, 2016

    Reblogged this on digitalshortbread and commented:
    Jordan has graciously contributed a review of Roman Polanski’s 1976 Parisian drama ‘The Tenant.’ Head on over to Mark’s place to check out what he had to say! Thanks!

  7. Tom · May 20, 2016

    Sounds excellent Jordan. I shall add it to an already lengthy queue of RP films I need to watch.

    • Jordan Dodd · May 21, 2016

      Hehe, yeah like I said he was one of the first I came across, yeeeears ago, and I bought up everything I could find. His movies dipped in quality after the 70’s, but he still made some decent flicks after that. His last two films especially were a return to form – one has John C Reilly in it (CARNAGE), you should check it out!

  8. Jordan Dodd · May 21, 2016

    Hehe, yeah like I said he was one of the first I came across, yeeeears ago, and I bought up everything I could find. His movies dipped in quality after the 70’s, but he still made some decent flicks after that. His last two films especially were a return to form – one has John C Reilly in it (CARNAGE), you should check it out!

  9. Ashley Lily Scarlett · May 23, 2016

    Good review! I saw this when it came out – I was 16 and couldn’t make head nor tail of it. I’ve subsequently watched it a number of times and I REALLY like it. Such a great feeling of dread about it!


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