June 15, 1976 [The Tenant]

Roman Polanski’s The Tenant is a surrealist sick-comic remake of Rear Window in which the guy watches himself—Polanski also stars, so the director can also watch himself go mad in an apartment building whose inward-turning, everybody’s-watching courtyard provides the best opening-title sequence I’ve ever seen, a serene implosion that's at once tense and melancholy.

Like Taxi Driver, it’s a movie about a smallish man who stops for death—but Travis Bickle turns the pain of isolation outward, while Trelkovsky ingests it, dresses it up to escape it, to turn it into another person—a different kind, a woman; but he chooses unwisely, since the woman is already dead, the two of them losing their teeth as rapidly as their minds. Then again, Trelkovsky’s contacts with the living provide their own madness: Isabelle Adjani’s Stella a disheveled sexy mess, those lips waiting for him, but in the end of no real use (like his friends from work, who bully him); but it’s nothing compared to what he does to himself—or is it done to him, his neighbors plotting like the witches in Rosemary’s Baby? It’s hard to tell; the story works its way out from inside Trelkovsky’s head—and every minute it gets tougher to trust him.

—And also like Taxi Driver, it’s a young man’s nightmare, his uncertainties regarding where he stands, who he is, worrying at him until he makes a choice—a really bad one—and he shaves off his hair or puts on a wig. Again, though, Bickle walks away from the mirror and aims and shoots, while Trelkovsky drags himself over the edge into the shattering glass, twice, to get himself all the way through, an Alice-mummy small and trapped, waiting for himself to show up to let her know how thoroughly he's succeeded—and how deep the failure, the camera plunging into her dying mouth, seeing him only when it’s dark.


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