Tuesday, March 17, 2020

S4E1. I am not Simone Choule: The Tenant (1976)

The Tenant was directed by Roman Polanski, who also stars as Trelkovsky a mild-mannered file clerk looking for a new apartment in Paris during a housing shortage. He finds a not-quite-vacant room in an American-owned building, but the last tenant, Simon Choule, is clinging to life after throwing herself out of the apartment's window. When the apartment becomes available Trelkovsky moves in and his life becomes a nightmare of paranoia and delusion.

Much like Polanski himself, and Roland Topor who wrote the source novel, Trelkovsky is a Polish-Jew who has immigrated to Paris. His "otherness" becomes a source of derision for his neighbors, the apartment's management, the police, his coworkers, and even the denizens of a local cafe. Trelkovsky becomes convinced that everyone is trying to change him into Simone Choule and make him suffer the same fate. He finds solace with Mlle. Choule's friend Stella, played by Isabelle Adjani, but comes to believe she is in on the conspiracy as well. Are they trying to change him into Simone, or is it all in his head?

The Tenant has been lumped together with Polanski's other films, Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby, to form the so-called Apartment Trilogy. All three deal with isolated and insulated characters whose sanity cracks until they can no longer tell what is real and what is only in their imaginations.

For this episode I am joined by film journalist Anya Stanley. Ms. Stanley's work has been seen in Birth Movies Death, Rue Morgue, Dread Central, and several other film publications. She's currently a columnist for Fangoria, exploring horror from a gendered perspective with her column Rated XX/XY. You can find her on Twitter as @BookishPlinko. And here is her great piece Who Gives a Shit if the Oscars Don't Respect Horror?