The Tenant (1976)
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Trelkovsky, a French citizen of Polish origin, is a nondescript and unassuming loner who moves into an apartment the previous occupant of which, a young woman, has thrown herself out of the window. The building is owned by the stern and ice-cold old man, who is hell bent on making sure his tenants do not make any noise and do not cause any trouble. He (and his underlings in the building) consider any sign of life to be "trouble." The old man spends much of his time enforcing a near-police-state-like order within the building. Undeniably, all kind of extremely weird things are going on in the building and I will not dwell on them. But it is the strange intrusiveness of the police-state which injects real terror into Trelkovsky's life. Faced with absurdity after absurdity, he makes some meek attempts to complain and ask for explanations: instead, noone is even ready to listen to him -- he is being treated like a piece of dirt practically by everyone.
It is also important that Trelkovsky's plunge into madness occurs suddenly and very abruptly. It seems almost like a psychological breakdown and a rebellion at the same time. He has lived the life of conformity, compliance, and quite resentment, never able to stand his ground or even establish his individual sovereignty. Trelkovksy's meekness is simply striking. His sudden and violent obsession with not letting "them" make him into the previous occupant of the flat is a pathological and concentrated reaction to the years of pent up passive aggression and anger. The infernal scream at the end of the film is the wild shout of anguish. In a certain sense, the completely unexpected finale of the film presents a huge puzzle which is not really intended to be resolved. But Polanski seems to be investing it with important symbolic meaning. This world is full of multiple Trelkovskys, little, unnoticeable people terrorized by their own sense of total insignificance. This is a vicious cycle of dependence between people's unconscious yet compulsive cruelty to each other and the tortured compliance with this cruelty by others.
This is an excellent, dark and captivating film in the best traditions of European psychological Gothic literature. I strongly recommend to watch this movie and take a look at Poe's, Hoffmann's and Gogol's stories.
Polanski himself plays Telkovsky, a young man looking for an apartment in France. When he finally finds one, he discovers that it is empty because the previous tenant, Simone Choule, attempted to kill herself by jumping out of the window. After Simone dies of the injuries, Trelkovsky begins to become obsessed with her, to the point of believing that her death was caused by the rest of the tenants in the building.
While sharing the same claustrophobic feeling of his other "apartment-themed" films ("Repulsion & "Rosemary's Baby"); this film focuses on the bizarre conspiracy that may or may not be entirely in Trelkovsky's head, the catastrophic effects the paranoia has on his mind, and the bizarre obsession he has with the previous tenant.
Trelkovsky's descend into darkness is portrayed perfectly by Polanski. While at first his performance seems odd and wooden, slowly one finds out that Polanski acts that way because Trelkovsky is meant to be acted that way; as a simpleton with almost no life, who traps himself in this maddening sub-world that happens to be inhabited by a collection of bizarre people. The supporting actors really gave life to the people in the building creating memorable characters that are very important for the success of the film.
Also, the beautiful cinematography Polanski employs in the film helps to increase the feeling of isolation, and gives life to the beautiful building that serves as cage for Trelkovsky. The haunting images Polanski uses to convey the feeling of confusion and madness are of a supernatural beauty that makes them both frightening and attractive.
If a flaw is to be found in the film, is that it is definitely a bit slow at first. this may sound like a turn-off but in fact the slow pace of the beginning works perfectly as it mimics Trelkovsky's own boring life and how gradually he enters a different realm. Also, the convoluted storyline is definitely not an easy one to understand due to the many complex layers it has. However, more than a flaw, it is a joy to face a thought-provoking plot like this one.
While "The Tenant" may not be for everyone, those interested in psychological horror and surreal story lines will be pleased by the experience. "Le Locataire" is really one of Roman Polanksi's masterpieces. 10/10
Claustrophobic environments are the ones which Polanski is best at creating, and this has to be the most suffocating and confined picture he ever created. The emphasis on side walls and distant vanishing points is greater than ever, and even in the small number of exterior scenes the sky is rarely glimpsed. But The Tenant is not just confined spatially, but also in the intensity with which it focuses on its protagonist. Trelkovsky, played by Polanski himself is not only in every scene, he is in virtually every shot. When he is not on screen more often than not the camera becomes Trelkovsky's point of view. And of course almost everywhere he looks he sees his own reflection staring back at him in a mirror.
I can't think of any film that is more about the internalisation and solitude of one character. Some psychological thrillers, like M or Peeping Tom, manipulate us into feeling sorry for the mentally ill protagonist. Others, like Psycho, attempt in-depth scientific analysis of his mental condition. The Tenant fits into neither of these categories it simply immerses us completely inside Trelkovsky's experience without demanding we actually understand or appreciate what is going on inside his head. We feel his paranoia and obsession even though it is constantly revealed to us that they are irrational.
Polanski was also a master of the slowly unfolding horror film. Often in his horrors there is an ambiguity as to whether there is actually anything sinister going on, but they are among the most effective at frightening audiences. Why? Precisely because they unfold so slowly and invest so much time in painstakingly setting up situations that they immerse the viewer in paranoia. A much later Polanski horror, The Ninth Gate is a bit of a mess plot-wise but at least it still manages to achieve that creeping sense of dread.
This is a rare chance to see Polanski himself in a major role. His talent in front of the camera was as good as behind it, and he is absolutely perfect as the meek Trelkovsky. Another standout performance is that of the all-too-often overlooked Shelley Winters as the concierge. In actual fact it is rather a stellar cast, although many of the familiar faces look out of place in this strange, Gothic European movie. Also sadly many of the French actors in supporting roles are atrociously dubbed in the English language version.
The Tenant is more polished and less pretentious than Repulsion, but it lacks the suspense and the character that make Rosemary's Baby so engrossing and entertaining. The Tenant is good, with no major flaws, and Polanski was really on top form as a director, but it's not among his most gripping works.
But I also enjoy the film for other reasons. I'm not sure that it works, on the whole - the Polanski character's descent into paranoia and madness, which takes up the final half hour or so, seems rather jarring and bizarre. Ebert, for one, was totally unconvinced, and he slapped the movie with a vicious one-star review. But I think that individual scenes and moments work beautifully, so even though I don't quite understand the whole film - what does Egyptology have to do with it, for example? - I still have an overall positive impression of it.
I love the obnoxious friend portrayed by Bernard Fresson, for example. God, how many times have I settled for having stupid friends like that instead of no friends at all! I love the movie theater scene - the funniest "making out" moment in the history of film, I'd say. And boy, do I love Isabelle Adjani - she's so foxy in this movie, it's almost unbelievable. And she gives a great performance, as always.
Polanski is a good actor, too; I don't agree with the occasional disparaging remarks made about his performance here. His character is supposed to be low-key and thoughtful, so his low-key performance fits. I, for one, found him perfectly sympathetic - though he did lose me a bit when he started dressed in drag for no clearly discernible reason.
Yes, the movie's obscure. And slow. But it captures the alienating qualities of apartment living - something I've done entirely too much of - so I dig it. It's funny how all you need is a common reference point, and suddenly a weirdo movie like this becomes deeply significant! Definitely worth picking up for pocket change on DVD.
It all starts of with Trelkovski moves into a tenement block in Paris. He soon learns that the previous tenant, a young woman, committed suicide and he believes the rest of the people living there drove her to it. He also believes that they are trying to do the same to him. What results is a amazing and frightening look at paranoia.
The whole production has classical horror written all over it: from the imagery to the music the viewer can feel poor Trelkovski's terror building up.
Are they all out to kill him? Or maybe just drive him mad? Is there a difference? Find out for yourself. 10/10
Apparently these people didn't understand the movie, which is not that hard to comprehend since it's very esoteric, dark, and layered in ways that still astound me. Reading through many of the reviews here I find (even after about 7-8 viewings over the years) many elements of the film I had previously glossed over. But even without understanding much the psychological underpinnings of the story, it's still a cracking suspenser...even if you just take the escalating paranoia and persecution that overtakes Polanski's title character like a tsunami wave over the course of it's two hour running time.
Examining the source material --- an excellent novella by underrated novelist Roland Topor --- uncovers more intriguing layers. Polanski's Trekovsky is a milquetoast of the highest order. Though he seems at first to be yet another mild everyday soul, one gradually realizes he is one of those people who seems to aimlessly drift through life, letting it direct him. He seems to have few strong feelings about his likes and dislikes. He finds himself gently pushed this way and that, but never seems to get too bent out of shape regardless. This vague sort of wishy-washy-ness is more noticeable in the novel than the movie, but there are hints of it early in the film too.
Making a play for the apartment of a woman, one Mademouiselle Choule, who is in the hospital recovering from a recent suicide attempt, appears to be the most daring thing he has attempted (even effectively haggling down the price of the deposit in the bargain). He soon finds, however, that he is paying for his "good thing" in more ways than he cares, as he finds himself in the center of maelstrom created by a building full of neurotic, control freaks who are hypersensitive to even the slightest sign of human life, such as a footstep in the night or a knock on the door.
Instead of taking a stand though, Trelkovsky becomes increasingly alienated by the situation, and overtaken by paranoia and a sense of persecution. He becomes obsessed with Choule, imagining himself to be like her, dressing like her, etc. as his own personality rapidly begins to be wiped away by his own insanity.
If anyone has ever doubted Polanski's fearlessness as an artist, they'd be well-advised to see this film. His trademark black humor is prominently (and sometimes embarrassingly) on display here and --- god bless him --- he makes himself the butt of it. It's a tour de force performance in one of the richest, riskiest, most Gothic horror movies ever made. That more people haven't seen it is a true crime.
Trelkovsky (Roman Polanski) is the polite office clerk who rents a modest apartment in a residential building in Paris and immediately encounters unpleasantness from its irritable concierge (Shelley Winters) and Monsieur Zy (Melvyn Douglas) who's the building's grumpy old landlord. Zy emphasises the importance of not making any noise and ensuring that nothing's done which could disturb the building's other residents. Unfortunately, a home-warming get-together that Trelkovsky has in his apartment with a group of his office colleagues attracts complaints from his neighbours and leads to Zy threatening his new tenant with eviction if there are any similar problems in the future.
Trelkovsky learns that the apartment's previous tenant, Simone Choule (Dominique Poulange) had attempted suicide by jumping out of the apartment window and had been injured so badly that it was certain that she would never be able to return. Intrigued by this, Trelkovsky visits Simone in hospital where he finds her heavily bandaged and also meets her friend Stella (Isabelle Adjani). Shockingly, when Simone sees her visitors, she's unable to communicate with them and merely lets out a long, loud and very distressing scream.
During the weeks that follow, Trelkovsky continues to be treated unfairly by his neighbours who consistently complain about the noise he makes. The sheer injustice of what happens makes him increasingly withdrawn and simultaneously, following Simone's death, he becomes obsessed with what happened to her and gradually finds himself adopting some of her behaviours (like changing to her brand of cigarettes and switching from coffee to drinking chocolate). As his obsession deepens, he even starts dressing in her clothes and then, recognising that he's losing his own identity, becomes convinced that his neighbours are conspiring against him to make him take on Simone's identity and like her, commit suicide. Further distressing events then follow as Trelkovsky decides what action to take to escape the treatment he's had to endure from his intolerant neighbours.
Impressively, the way in which Trelkovsky's experiences are depicted on-screen enables the audience to feel the same level of injustice that he feels and to share in his confusion as he loses his sanity because it's not always clear what's real and what's imagined. Similarly, the distress that he feels during his unstoppable change of identity is conveyed very powerfully as he struggles to comprehend the café owner's role in this and also reflects on how much of himself he can give up before his identity is completely lost. The conventional view of what happened to him would be to assume that his breakdown was the result of a pre-existing condition, however, what takes place in the movie's final scene suggests at least two other possible explanations.
Roman Polanski conveys his character's diffidence very convincingly and his physical appearance makes him a perfect choice for the part. Isabelle Adjani, Shelley Winters and Melvyn Douglas are also superb in their important roles and contribute strongly to the success of this extremely memorable movie.
I didn't have enough sense to do that with original Coke. And I couldn't have invented one of those magical psychic lockers not then. But I did something almost as good. In the seventies, I really tuned into Roman Polanski. He was a strange and exotic pleasure you know, movies smuggled out of the Soviet block. Movies so sensitive to beauty that you cry for weeks afterward. Movies that make you want to live with Polish women, one, and then deciding that they would be the last to get it.
Here's what I did. I took what I knew would be my favorite Polanski movie and set it aside. I did not watch it. I deferred until I thought I would be big enough to deserve it. Over the years, I would test myself, my ability to surround beauty and delineate it without occupying it. There probably are few Poles who have worked at this, practicing to deserve Chopin. Working to deserve womanness when I see it. Trying to get the inners from the edges.
Recently, I achieved something like assurance that it was time to pull this out. I already knew that I was already past the time when this would work optimally, because I had already seen and understood "9th Gate."
If you do not know this, it is about a man who innocently rents a room in which the previous tenant (about whom the story is named) jumped out the window, to die later after this man (played by Polanski) visits. What happens is that time folds and he becomes this woman. We are fooled into believing that he is merely mad. But the way we follow him, he is not. He merely has flashes that the world is normal, and that the surrounding people are not part of a coven warping his reality.
The story hardly matters. What matters is how Polanksi shapes this thing, both in the way he inhabits the eye that only makes edges and in inhabiting the body that only consists of confused flesh. The two never meet. There is a dissonance that may haunt me for the next 30 years. Its the idea about and inside and an outside with no edges at all at all except a redhead wig.
I know of no one else that could do this, this sketch that remains a sketch, this horror that remains natural.
To understand the genius of this, you have to know one of the greatest films ever made; "Rear Window." The genius of that film is the post-noir notion that the camera shapes the world; that the viewer creates the story. What Roman does is take this movie and turn it inside out. In Rear Window, the idea was that the on-screen viewer (Jimmy Stewart) was the anchor and everything else was fiction, woven as we watched. Here, the on screen apartment dweller is the filmmaker. We know this. We know that everything we see is true because he is the narrator. We know it is true that bodies shift identity, that times shift, that causality is plastic. We know that the narrator will kill us. We know that the narrator will leave us in a perpetual horror, on that edge that he imputes but never shows us and lets us imagine.
Ted's Evaluation -- 4 of 3: Every cineliterate person should experience this.
The cast is marvelous. You meet Shelley Winters as the concierge and Melvyn Douglas as the proprietor of an old apartment house in the midst of a moldy 19th century Parisian district. The two great veteran actors are used for what they are icons. Every movie buff who likes The French Connection II will experience a pleasant feeling of "deja vu". The same actor who serves Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle a whisky in a Marseilles bar and becomes his only buddy in France is now the waiter who brings the tenant a cup of cocoa in a Paris bar. He even wears the same wardrobe! The same can be said of French actor Bernard Fresson, Popeye's police contact in Marseilles. He plays the nasty, vulgar acquaintance of the tenant who wants to teach him how a tenant should behave. Polanski plays the kafkaesque main character himself. His performance impressed me very much, he is not only one of the most interesting directors I know but an immensely talented actor too.
The way people look in this movie reminded me very much of the Muppet show (incidentally the TV series was started the same year The Tenant was released). The characters are deliberately overdrawn and feel like caricatures (nobody more so than the sexy Isabelle Adjani character not exactly a Miss Piggy but not too far from it either). The way they were made up and filmed gives them a strong puppet-like appearance. The apartment house is realistic yet it looks more like a doll house than the set of Hitchcocks Rear Window. Muppets pop out of their compartments and do things that are banal or mysterious.
The Tenant deals mainly with the main character's paranoia. The apartment house offers a look into the tenant's troubled mind. The movie comments on the effects of bigotry and indifference but also on the perception of an individual who may give wrong meanings to certain events. The situation allows the introduction of signs and objects with symbolic values. The director made full use of the possibilities the movie offered here. I could not say I understood the meaning of it all (e.g. the tenant slaps a kid in the face in a park for no apparent reason), but I am sure it does not really matter. The tenant thinks there is a complot against him and he sees all events in this light. Even the fact that the barkeeper has run out of his beloved Gauloises bleues and presses Marlboros on him instead he sees as part of a devilish plan!
Despite the finely tuned dark colors and the dark thoughts of the main character they reflect, The Tenant is surprisingly light. Some may call it sophisticated camp. This lightness which is achieved with a peculiar sense of humor seems to be a trademark of Polanski's movies. He persues his tactics to look for the absurd in the midst of horrors. The ending is very grotesque. Ashamedly I have to admit it: It made me laugh.
Somehow The Tenant borrows from Polanski's earlier film Repulsion. But it has more flourish. The choice and the use of real locations is very good. Some ideas of this movie were integrated in Polanski's later film Frantic, including Polanski's apparent love for Paris garbage men and their equipment. Whoever likes The Tenant should look for movies of Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki. They are in the same vein.
I think the reviews posted here are generally accurate. As alainbenoix put it best, "Meek, tiny, almost insignificant. Polanski finds the invisibility of his characters and makes something enormous out of it." From my experience, some years of therapy, and my wife's many years as a psychotherapist, a primal issue for all of us is abandonment. Telkovsky feels isolated because he can't connect with his fellow human beings, even though he is given opportunities to do this. His paranoia is fear driven, and the sad part is that, unlike many of us, he does not go through the experience, perhaps learn from it, but confronts it as an impenetrable wall, and retreats within himself. The result, the denouement of his process? Watch the film.
Polanski's art is to make this process interesting visually, and in some sense, an ordinary story an adventure. While I am partial to the clarinet, I've not often heard it used with such meaning as in this film.
Also, great acting from all, especially from Polanski, I think because this story is so personal, even intimate for him. Impeccable, involving cinematography. It's a story about faith, or the lack thereof, and as all great stories do, it provides a mirror into which we can look and see ourselves reflected back.
The weird "Le Locataire" is a disturbing and creepy tale of paranoia and delusion. The story and the process of madness and loss of identity of the lonely Trelkovsky are slowly developed in a nightmarish atmosphere in the gruesome location of his apartment, and what is happening indeed is totally unpredictable. The performances are awesome and Isabelle Adjani is extremely beautiful. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "O Inquilino" ("The Tenant")
Note: On 13 April 2014, I saw this movie again.
Weird, sometimes hostile, neighbors who live in the same building as Trelkovsky hound him about minor or nonexistent noise coming from his apartment. Sounds play a big part in this movie: incessant knocks on his door, the ticking of clocks, dripping water, and creaky floors. Gradually, Trelkovsky convinces himself that his neighbors are conspiring to force him to commit suicide in the same manner as the former tenant.
I suspect that Polanski, through this film, is making some kind of comment about how we, as individuals, must adapt to a hostile environment, or die. But I'm not sure. That Polanski cast himself in the lead role conveys the impression that the film is some kind of veiled statement from Polanski about his own life or career, at that point in time. The film seems very "personal".
There are a number of references in the film to Egypt and Egyptian hieroglyphics. But their significance is never explained. Of course, there may be no deep meaning to the film at all. It may simply be a farcical comment about the routine irritations of urban apartment living.
Its thematic intent aside, "The Tenant" generally lacks entertainment value, at least for me. One problem is that Trelkovsky is irritatingly timid and obliging. I would have had more respect for him if he had displayed some assertiveness. The film's secondary characters I also found not especially interesting. Also, the film is too lengthy for its content. As a one hour TV drama, the story might have been fine. As is, the plot is tedious and repetitive, and the pace is very, very slow.
The visuals are exceedingly drab and dreary. And the intermittent background music is as drab as the visuals. The film's production design is impressively detailed.
Kafkaesque in plot, "Le Locataire" presents a baffling psychodrama about a mild-mannered man whose living arrangement morphs into a nightmarish world of invented duress and danger. It's an intriguing concept. I just wish the story and the lead character had been more interesting.
When I started watching this movie, I was literally entranced. Nothing could take my eyes off the screen, and I wanted to know what would happen to our main character, what this particular portion of his life would tell me. What portion of his life are we given the chance to see, and what morals and understanding of the human condition will I gain.
The Tenant is a great movie. The ending caught me by surprise, and I was a little disappointed. But I would definitely recommend this picture of for a late night viewing.
8 STARS!! Though it probably deserves more.
With its sharp sense of black humor and satire, "The Tenant" was able to tickle my funny bone as well as it was able to tingle my spine. Perplexing, haunting, and yet still often hilarious, this film combines genres in a way only mastered by the finest auteurs of cinema (I got some Lynchian vibes from much of the dark humor and surrealism, and some of the satirical elements reminded me of "Donnie Darko" to an extent). It is as if "Rosemary's Baby" were co written by an intelligent jester with the help of the spirit of Jonathan Swift.
In what may be my favorite of all Polanski's masterpiece infested work, genres range from angry satire to black comedy to disturbing psychological drama to paranoid thriller to bone chilling surrealist horror in a way that feels natural in Polanski's truly unnatural world.
This psychological thriller is a bit of an odd-ball from the beginning. Something always feels somewhat amiss about everything. Before long unaccountable events begin to happen such as strange objects discovered in the apartment, tenants who stare motionless into space in the middle of the night and Egyptology. The bizarre, surreal nature of the film is handled very well by Polanski who had already proved himself adept at this kind of thing. The oddness is unintentionally reinforced by some of the worst dubbing I can ever remember in a film with such production values. The voice acting is really bad and makes the proceedings feel even more dislocated and unusual, although this surely wasn't intentional. Even Isabelle Adjani seems to be dubbed which is kind of criminal; Polanski himself has his own voice though. If you can get past this weakness there is quite a bit to appreciate here though. It works both as a surreal, psychological thriller as well as an analogy on the oppression felt by the immigrant – Trelkovsky is reminded throughout that he is foreign and his elderly neighbours can easily be seen to represent the old guard who are distrustful of outsiders. However you choose to interpret it, while The Tenant is certainly an uneven Polanski film, it's also one with enough about it to make it well worth seeking out if you appreciate his work.
Roman Polanski does an excellent job in the role of a peripheral everyman who is confronted with his own lack of substance when he embarks on a no-return guilt trip when he takes over the apartment of a soon to be dead girl. The rest of the cast play equally well, but the dubbing (I saw the English version, so I think I should try to get the French version) was at many times a little irritating, which makes it a bit harder to judge the acting - by the looks of them, they were cast perfectly, that's for sure.
A big, big 9 out of 10.
Trelkvosky (Roman Polanski) is a decent tenant, who is paying his rent promptly. He is an honest bureaucratic worker with a fear inside him, growing like a monster; he begins to experience traumatic pressure, deriving from the very room in which he lives. Without any doubt Polanski brilliantly portraits the character of a nice gentleman's tragic situation where he eventually descents into madness while playing double role as the actor and the director, he has all the possibilities to reverberate, his fantastic ideas throughout the film.
After watching this film, I was deeply haunted by its theme of alienation, which is of course, one of the fundamental features of modern literature. In 'Tenant', Polanski adds something more to this. He has very good visions of human mind. When an imagination character breaks in to the room of Trelvosky the viewers remains confused, later on we begin to realize the fact, that Polanski is visualizing the elements of insanity on the screen.
For the protagonist, all his neighbors are involved in a clandestine plot; A plot, that is aimed to force him to commit suicide! Well, from the psychological point of view this fear of that persists from the loneliness happens to be the key factor. Here, the protagonist's strain of being an outsider is telling upon his mental health and he has fantasized his own image as an old ugly woman.
Ideas of Polanski in the film 'Tenant' are captivating. Society is a villain here. When a sensible and silent outsider is perplexed by the perpetual expectation of the society, to an extreme extent, the aspects of 'sociopath-cultural norms' loose their meanings. Trelkvasky here puts aside the normal world, to survive in his imaginative world. Tragic part is, an individual's softness and innocence are catapulted in the highly hypocritical world, causing the lurid death of a prompt tenant, in the end.
As a director Roman Polanski impeccably illustrates the fears of a common man. In the climax, he jumps from his window twice, with the hopes that his action will act as a deterrent to his neighbors. With a big round of applause he screams that his name is "Trelkvosky'. In order to claim his identity in front of the whole world (which appears like a living hell to him) he, hopelessly tries to receive a strong death, through the act of suicide. Again, from this last scene, we are witnessing Polanski's weird declaration--- to establish his unique connection with the society, he has to commit suicide. In his imagination, the Protagonist observes, almost all neighbors are all eagerly waiting outside his room to watch his death; audience are decorated in a sumptuous costumes and dying to capture his death ceremony. This is how an austere man's life is corrupted by a bunch of aristocratic neighbors.
As the story develops, we observe that the protagonist is handing over his self, to his sub-conscious mind, and hiding in the caves of his attar-ego. This occurs, with a desperate attempt in order to cater the society's sensitiveness. The act of substitution has been dominating his character.
Most abusive critiques of Roman Polanski must concede his craft fullness, as a director, Tenant is a passionate example for this. His debut performance as an actor is dazzling. The Tenant is a riveting and ambitious example for film noir genre at its best. Polanski carries the whole mental scenario of a community over his shoulder (remember: here the protagonist belongs to Polish Nativity). If you have not witnessed his magical experience, then I must say, you are tragically missing one of the beautiful parts of this life.
Polanski is very good at making us feels the inner torture of his characters (Deneuve in Repulsion and himself in Le Locataire), starting with some lack of self-assurance soon to turn gradually into psychological uneasiness eventually blossoming into an irreversible physical malaise. The shared ordeal for the characters and audience is really dissimilar from the fright and tension of horror movies since there's no tangible supernatural element here. While horror movies allow for some kind of catharsis (be it cheap or more elaborate) Polanski sadistically tortures us and, if in his latter opus the dark humour is permanent, we are mostly on our nerves as opposed to on the edge of our seats.
Suspense, horror, all this is a matter of playing with the audience's expectations (alternatively fooling and fulfilling them), not literally with people's nerves. In my book Rosemary's Baby is a far greater achievement because sheer paranoia and plain rationality are in constant struggle: the story is about a couple moving in a strange flat, while we are forced to identify with a sole character. What's more if the fantasy elements are all in the hero's mind the situation is most uncomfortable since we, the viewers, are compelled to judge him, reject him while we have been masterfully lured ("paint 'n lure") into being him.