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The Tenant

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Star, London, 1976
(first published in Great Britain by WH Allen, 1966)
price: 50p; 128 pages

The blurb on the back:

'Grotesque and harrowing, The Tenant is a powerful fable set in the twilight zone.' - Observer
'A compulsive document fraught with the same half-sane magnifications of reality that strike home in Kafka's
The Trial.' - London Evening News

opening lines:
Trelkovsky was on the point of being thrown out in the street when his friend Simon told him about an apartment on the rue de Pyrénées.

Roman Polanski's life makes Boy Wonder look restrained. At the age of six, he found his native Poland invaded by Nazis; by the time he was directing his first movie, the country had become a satellite of the Soviet Union. He moved to the West, and became a celebrity first in Europe and then America, where his wife, Sharon Tate - who was pregnant at the time - was murdered by the Family of Charles Manson. He made just three more movies in America, before having to leave in a hurry, fleeing allegations of child abuse. Those films were Macbeth, Chinatown and this one, The Tenant.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first two of this little trio are pretty bleak and depressing, but The Tenant is something of an oddity. Returning to the claustrophobia of his apartment films, Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby, Polanski starred in and directed a little tale about creeping paranoia, playing a character becoming increasingly convinced that his neighbours are trying to get him to commit suicide. It didn't really convince too many people, and is seldom mentioned in resumés of Polanski's career, but it has a certain charm, and it's better than most of the stuff that he's made since his return to Europe.

Roman P
Roman P.

The book that Polanski adapted for the film was originally titled Le Locataire Chimerique and is actually better than the movie, a really unsettling, nervous little piece about which - as the Evening News discovered - you can't help but use the word Kafkaesque. On reflexion, I think its paranoid take on everyday urban life would probably have been better served by David Lynch than Polanski. Nice book, but scary.


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