A TOOTH IN THE WALL

I don’t know if Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, THE TENANT was a hit or not. I do remember seeing it when it came out, but I also remember mainly being impressed that we were shown the preview for CARRIE. As a kid I was bored by this film. As an adult I see it in a whole other light. True, it is a horror film filled with tension and a sort of un-nerving quality that Polanski used to be so exceptional at creating. However, the “pay-off” is not typical horror film fare. In fact, there is nothing “normal” about this film. However, if you’re a movie fan — you will note that it has had a most definite impact on other filmmakers.

If you’ve a taste for the unusual or challenging cinema and you’ve not ever seen this film — you would be well advised to check it out. I will not give any spoilers. But this film is much more than a study of a disturbed psyche or a surreal horror movie. I actually think it shares a great deal of relation to Polanski’s later and more traditional film, THE PIANIST.

I think this experimental film is actually a study on alienation, isolation and the unforgivable impact of the Holocaust.…To be different is to be suspect. …To be different is a threat. In many ways, to be different is the worst of all crimes …To be different can set one up to be viewed as the ultimate evil — and victimized beyond any reason. …And, to eyes too far removed — it can be too difficult to believe. And, to dare to be different and defy those who would judge of punish you for it requires a great deal of bravery and can be reduced to paranoia. This scenario is really the ultimate human horror.

Just like THE EXORCIST is far more than a movie about a little girl possessed by a demon — it, in many ways, is a product of it’s odd time in the US’s socio-political history. All social norms were being questioned and religion was at the top of the list. And, if ever there was a time that parents felt their children to be beyond their control it would have been during the late 60’s and into the early 70’s. THE EXORCIST takes a parental fear and turns it on its head. The impact of that idea/message has been somewhat lost over the years. However — racism, fascism and sex intolerance is sadly on the upswing.

Society has always condemned those who are too far outside its social-political norms. And, anyone perceived as possibly having the potential to assert power is a threat. Polanski has never shy’d away from presenting women as smart, tough and unwilling victims of circumstance. In THE TENANT this idea is very present.

There are actually several “female leads” in this movie. (you would need to see the film to understand that statement) …Isabelle Adjani was an unusual choice for one of these “leads”, but a good choice. If you’re familiar with French accents — switch the DVD to “French Audio” to hear Adjani’s real voice —- she plays the role with what sounds like a heavy Belgium accent. …An outsider in Paris. …Different. Even in the theatrically released version (another actress dub’d in English) — she speaks in a manner ill-suited to her circumstances. It works quite well.

Actually, I feel the only real flaw with this film is in the dubbing. Due to Polanski’s controversial run from the US — this film was shot in France. (I don’t want to “go there” regarding that run — that would be more than a blog post!) However, he opted to shoot this film in English using a large roster of famous old-time Hollywood film stars (Melvin Douglas, Shelley Winters and Jo Van Fleet) and mixing them with a lot of French actors. Some actors are speaking English and some are speaking French. It appears that Polanski alternates. Sometimes his lips match his voice and sometimes they don’t. Switching to the French track will not help because then all the American actors are off. …It is particularly odd to see Shelley Winters off-dub with a French actress’ voice. The only dub which actually works is the one used for Adjani. I suppose this was before Adjani had mastered English.

Even still, this is really not a big deal. Once you adjust to this world of odd dubs — it actually works with Polanski’s surreal vision.

And, of course, you can’t go wrong when Ingmar Bergman’s DP — The Great Sven Nykvist — is behind the camera — you can anticipate visual magic. Sven Nykvist was simply one of if not the best artist to touch cinematography thus far. And, his work for this film is amazing!

I’m far too lazy to do any on-line research. (sorry) — but if you know more about the production of this film or if I’ve misunderstood some of what Polanski was trying to do — please feel free to correct me! But, if you’ve not seen it — give it a shot! It is available on DVD everywhere in the world! NetFlix it!

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September 14, 2007. Uncategorized.

12 Comments

  1. deldell replied:

    Hey love, how are you today?
    I’ve heard of this film, but never seen it. I even love most of his mainstream work. Walter Matthau in Pirates was so marvelous.
    To me, Polanksi is a little like Bergman, in that he’s best when suggesting a state of awareness that’s slightly askew, causing us to rethink the accepted reality.
    It looks like he’s bailing on his latest film, the Pompeii thing, because of the actors strike coming up.

  2. matty03 replied:

    Daniel! I’m OK. Oh, you need to see this film! I think it is one of his best! Right up there with ROSEMARY’s BABY and REPULSION! I have to admit I’m not too excited about his upcoming film. We’ll see, tho. I won’t miss it. But, I do agree, his work normally always makes you think. I started cringing, tho — when he started conforming more to what he thought the audience wanted. But, it is the business we call ‘show’!

  3. johnNokc replied:

    Hope this finds you feeling better. If you haven’t done so, I recommend you see La Vie en Rose. About Piaf, of course. The French actress who plays Piaf is stunning. Caution: You must be strong as an oak tree as the film is very depressing. How could a film about Piaf be otherwise. A candle is burning for you and your health.

  4. diamondfistwerny replied:

    Glad you’re starting to enjoy movies again!

  5. mrhappysad replied:

    Hi Matty. Been away, just checking in on you. Hope everything is good over there. Your health, love and everything else in between! Take care sweetie. More later! xoxo

  6. fashmagslag replied:

    Meh, I hate people who are different. CONFORMITY rules! 😉

  7. matty03 replied:

    John! I’m ok. Not great, but ok. Oh, now I wish I had seen that film. I believe it left SF. I started to see it a couple of times but heard mixed things about it and I do so love Piaf. I had trouble imagining how one would make an honest film about her life which would earn a US PG-13 rating and not an R. …I know that sound dumb, but her life was so sad and difficult. Seems it would require a guardian in attendance. lol! Anyway, I will have to check out the DVD which should be coming out soon.

  8. matty03 replied:

    Mr. Diamond! Oh, I always enjoy a good film to pull me into a different world and not worry so much about this one as it worries me a lot at the moment. But, I’m not really so up to going to the movies. Tho, I might venture to one this week. Most curious about the new Cronenberg film.

  9. matty03 replied:

    Mr. HappySad! Thanks! I’ll be fine. Just gotta get thru this rough patch. And, I shall!!!

  10. matty03 replied:

    Fash Mag Slag! Oh, I know! People are dare to look or act differently can be ever so annoying! And, I feel, what is even worse is when they are not perfect! Of course, you and I do not need to worry about that — as we are perfect and very much the same as everyone else.

    kisses,
    matty

  11. ginab replied:

    where’s Ing?

    Just watched Berg’s The Virgin Spring this weekend, el solomente. Ang Lee provides some commentary; that the VS was his first jolt into thoughtful filmmaking and still he borrows an ‘angle’ from this Bergman flick where a lead character is turning their back on the lens, disclosing a private moment or what, as Lee questions. He tested the angle in Brokeback Mountain.

    Do you remember the scene?

    In The Virgin Spring the angle represents the voyuer as though to be god itself. Ang Lee seemed to miss that very point, but then I think he was simply adding polite speculation.

    I’ve not seen THE TENANT, as you might have guessed. I never understood the conflict over Belgique (sp) except the Belgians might feel conflicted speaking in French. They made the enforced language regional, or they made something of it all their own and for this…? 😉

    But where is Ing?

    xo-ginab

  12. matty03 replied:

    Gina! VIRGIN SPRING is such in important and interesting film. I think I remember the scene you mention, but I can’t think of it being used in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. However, BM did not impress me all that much. I thought it was an excellent movie when I saw it but it has already started to leave my memory excepting the film score and a few moments. VS will never leave me.

    It would be interesting to watch a double bill. …tho, I should think Lee’s work will look very ‘thin’ or ‘weak’ by comparison.

    …I hope you check out THE TENANT!

    I’ve not seen Ing in a good week or so, but I think she is just busy at work. I emailed with her earlier today. Miss seeing her!

    (Actually, I miss having a life!) …I want it back!!! lol! Ugh!

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