Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Tenant

Roman Polanski's The Tenant (1976) is equal parts hilarious and terrifying. It tells the story of a new tenant (played by Polanski himself) in an apartment previously occupied by a woman who has recently committed suicide. It soon becomes apparent to the man that the other lodgers (as well as the physical building itself) are conspiring to drive him insane and towards suicide, as they had done to the previous tenant.

Not only does it bare a strong resemblance to Polanski's own Rosemary's Baby but also Abel Ferrara's (who also cast himself in the lead) Driller Killer. Perhaps the biggest debt is owed to it by David Lynch, who's Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive show strong traces of The Tenant in their DNA.

Phillippe Sarde's perfectly adequate soundtrack went straight through me upon first listen. It wasn't until it made an appearance later, albeit in reworked fashion that it really caught my ear.

What is essentially a fairly smooth jazz pop-rock reworking of the main theme opens the composition up beautifully - deemphasising the orchestral density but maintaining the harmonic complexity, the spartan drums given a perfect rush from subtle dub effects - all in service of a serene yet  unsteady, and uncertain minimalism. Perhaps a foreshadowing of some of Radioheads (amongst others) later works - where both jazz and orchestral  concepts compete within a rock idiom?