Monday, September 12, 2005

Polanski in Drag

Another of Polanski's experiments in urban detachment and paranoia. This film is always classified as a "thriller," but it's actually--like Rosemary's Baby and The Ninth Gate--a subtle and quirky comedy. Imagine Rear Window, but all the other tenants in the building are watching the protagonist...or so it would seem.

Sam Raimi made the merciless and harrowing Evil Dead and then revisited the same story later in a Three-Stooges-style parody of his own idea. In much the same way, The Tenant is a goofy send-up of Polanski's notably un-funny masterpiece Repulsion, with himself as lead. I found it a laugh a minute--Polanski's a cinematic genius playing witty games with his audience. Just as Brian dePalma has a tendency to say HEY LOOK AT THIS CINEMATIC TROPE I'M USING HERE for effect, Polanski continuously draws attention to the man both behind and in front of the camera/curtain. A lot of genuinely interesting 'thriller' techniques are de-constructed, but The Tenant does feature some innovative and effective chills later mimicked in Eyes Wide Shut and Jacob's Ladder. Good fun, but probably only for fans of his other work.

Strangely, as I type this I'm listening to Fantomas' delicious cover of the Rosemary's Baby theme. Fucking awesome!