THE TENANT (1976) Reviews and overview

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The Tenant – aka Le Locataire – is a 1976 French psychological thriller feature film directed by and starring Roman Polanski, plus Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, and Shelley Winters. The film is based upon the 1964 novel Le locataire chimérique by Roland Topor and was the third entry in Polanski’s “Apartment Trilogy”, following Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby.


Trelkovsky (Polanski) is an expatriate pole in Paris who takes over the lease of a gloomy apartment and comes to believe that the other tenants in the block are conspiring to drive him to kill himself. The real or imagined conspiracy is supported by the suicide of the previous tenant.

Trelkovsky finds himself assuming the identity of his predecessor, but the twist that sets this film above the competition is that this previous occupant was a girl. Polanski uses this twist to explore the character’s latent bisexuality in an atmosphere of paranoia and delusion. The Tenant features a cocktail of bizarre coincidences, inexplicable appearances and suggestions of the supernatural.


“The film gives us a very haunting vision of modern Paris, and the crumbling apartment setting–with its spiral staircases and oddball inhabitants– a fittingly ghostly setting. Don’t let the lengthy running time discourage you; The Tenant is a mesmerizing cinematic experience by one of its most talented filmmakers.” DVD Drive-In

“A rich and multi-layered film, The Tenant is as pure a distillation of Polanski’s technique as one could hope for. The repetition of themes and images can cause chills after countless viewings, though often the shudders overlap with skillfully handled black comedy.” Mondo Digital

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“Unlike Catherine Deneuve’s Carole Ledoux from Repulsion, the timid Trelkovsky remains somewhat of a cipher. But The Tenant isn’t so much a psychological portrait of grief as it is an unnerving acknowledgement of the ambiguous nature of the world. Unlike Rosemary Woodhouse’s all-of-them-witches nightmare fulfillment, Trelkovsky really is a victim of his own paranoiac fantasies.” Nick Schager, Slant magazine

Cast and characters:

  • Roman Polanski as Trelkovsky
  • Isabelle Adjani as Stella – Possession; Nosferatu the Vampyre
  • Melvyn Douglas as Monsieur Zy – Ghost Story; The Changeling; The Old Dark House
  • Jo Van Fleet as Madame Dioz
  • Bernard Fresson as Scope
  • Rufus as Georges Badar
  • Shelley Winters as The Concierge – Tentacles; Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?; What’s the Matter with Helen?
  • Lila Kedrova as Madame Gaderian
  • Patrice Alexsandre as Robert
  • Romain Bouteille as Simon
  • Josiane Balasko as Office Worker
  • Claude Dauphin as Husband at the accident
  • Claude Piéplu as Neighbor (as Claude Pieplu)
  • Jacques Monod as Café Owner
  • Jean-Pierre Bagot as Policeman
  • Michel Blanc as Scope’s Neighbor
  • Eva Ionesco as Bettina, Mme Gaderian’s Daughter


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