The Tenant (1976)

the tenant poster 1976 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good claustrophobic visuals

Story tries too hard and struggles to find the balance between horror and comedy

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Tenant

Studio:  Marianne Productions

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  May 26, 1976 (France)/June 11, 1976 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

the tenant apartment building roman polanski

Ain’t no party like a Parisian crazy tenant party

Trelkovsky (Roman Polanski) has a new apartment with some pretty strict rules.  When he investigates the death of the previous tenant Simone Choule, he meets one of Simone’s friend Stella (Isabelle Adjani) and continues find himself slipping into Simone’s old world.  When he realizes Simone’s death might not have been a suicide, Trelkovsky realizes that someone might be after him…and no one can be trusted.

Directed by Roman Polanski, The Tenant (or Le Locataire) is a French film and considered the third part of Polanski’s apartment trilogy which includes Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968).  The movie is based on 1964’s Le locataire chimérique by Roland Topor.  It received mixed reviews upon its release.

The Tenant is just out-and-out an odd film.  Is it a horror film?  Is it a comedy?  Is it thriller?  It is hard to tell when watching it…it also lends itself to multiple viewings as a result.

the tenant roman polanski crossdressing

Damn…I look good in this wig

The movie builds up questions.  It is unclear what is really going on.  Polanski didn’t plan for the movie to be the third in his series (another director was scheduled to do it), so to have it thematically tie to Rosemary’s Baby or Repulsion isn’t necessary a plan (though it does).  In that case, the horror is real and it may not be entirely in his head.  At points the film is campy and almost a dark comedy including his double suicide attempt.  It is horrific but laughable…and since Polanski doesn’t generally go for that, it is hard to tell if it is entirely intentional.

Polanski struggles to carry the movie.  There are portions of the film that he almost echoes Tommy Wissau’s performance in his cult bomb The Room (Wisseau could have even been emulating him).  This makes it harder to grab onto the winding plot.  The supporting cast is genuinely creepy but underused.  Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet, and Shelley Winters should have been developed more into the plot.

the tenant ending roman polanski hospital

Ok…now it’s some weird loop?

Visually, the movie still works.  It creates this nervous atmosphere where the character is slowly becoming a paranoid shut in.  You can see the mistakes he is making and you can see where the neighbors will turn…but then if it is in his head, you don’t; you see his delusions.  This warped vision does work with the story.

The Tenant is a tough film.  It needs to be seen more than once, but it isn’t one of those film that makes you want to watch it again right away since it is a slow burn.  I definitely can see its faults, but I also see some positives in the story that almost works (but never seems to get over the hump).  I want to love The Tenant, but only can commit to liking it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response