Friday, 22 February 2013

Superman Returns (Bryan Singer, 2006)

"He's a little fragile, but he's gonna grow up to be big and strong... just like his dad."


Considering Superman Returns halted any further sequels to the original vision of the Superman series, it is a fair assumption that reviews were negative and mixed at best. Strangely, it continues to hold on to a 76% score on Rotten Tomatoes, only just earning a 'fresh' rating almost seven years after the films release. Despite the positive reviews, the film controversially "failed" at the box-office. In no uncertain terms, though raking in almost $400m (becoming the ninth highest-grossing worldwide film of the year), the total expenditure is rumoured to be as high as $263m alongside a marketing budget at $100m. A little mathematics clearly show a small-return for Hollywood - and in comparison to the highest-grossing worldwide film-release of 2006, Dead Man's Chest, it is an upsetting comparison, as the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean earned a little over $1bn worldwide, on a budget of $225m. Now that's a success.


The failure of Superman Returns, Bryan Singer believes, is because the film was "nostalgic and romantic". His personal love for Richard Donner's original overshadowed a clear story and structure whereby the religious allegory he attempted to include seemed like a token-gesture at best - rather than a core-element to the film.

After five years, Superman (Brandon Routh) returns to planet Earth after an absence of five years. Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has managed to get himself out of prison and has re-visited the Fortress of Solitude to steal a shard of Kryptonite. Superman, as Clark Kent, returns to the Daily Planet to find that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is now married to Richard White (James Marsden), with child, and she has achieved her dream by winning a Pulitzer Prize for an article titled: "Why the world doesn't need Superman". The assumption is that the film takes place post-Superman II so continuity dictates that this is why Luthor knows where the Fortress of Solitude is and why Superman's father is still Marlon Brando.

The Kent homestead remains the same and, cinematically, the titles and music clearly tell us that this is the same universe. Singer, after trying so hard to connect the film to Donner's original duo, then ignores crucial elements. In one throwaway line, Lois Lane mentions to Superman information about her "colleague" Clark Kent - and Superman responds that he doesn't know who he is. Wasn't Kent the connection between Lois and Superman in the first few films? Even Luthor doesn't seem aware that his "land" strategy for wealth is similar to his plan of breaking off a section of California in Superman: The Movie.

Ryan McNeil wrote how "the biggest problem with the film is how it doesn't know whether it is a sequel of a reboot" - and I completely agree. The world we are watching, we need to invest in - and a lack of clarity in the universe will always be difficult to follow. I would assume that those who will appreciate the film most will be those who haven't seen the 1978 and 1980 originals - but then they will feel at a disadvantage when Marlon Brando appears and it is clear "something" happened before. Singer needed to either (a) set it post Superman IV: The Quest for Peace or (b) simply reboot the whole thing. Instead he tried to get the best of both worlds - and failed.

Religious Allegory

Upon viewing the Man of Steel trailers, like all the Superman films, the Jesus-parallel always manages to become a theme. The original four films seem to blend the Jesus narrative that is inherent within the Superman story with an anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist message within a pro-America (quite the oxymoron!) context. Superman Returns wisely side-steps the capitalist argument (in 2006, we were all enjoying crazy-wealth and only those in Wall Street knew what was due to hit...) and focuses our attention on the struggles Superman personally has. Has the world moved away from the notion of a divine being? Can we paraphrase Lois Lane's article to read "Why the World doesn't need a Saviour/God/Religion"? The state of America post 9/11 inevitably shook many people to reflect on their faith - and whether a God could exist in such dark times.

The religious themes don't stop there. Bryan Singer himself, when explaining the "too-heavy" nature of the film said:
"I've always felt that the origin of Superman is the story of Moses -- the child sent on a ship to fulfill a destiny," said Singer, a producer on the upcoming X-Men: First Class. "And this was a story about Christ -- it's all about sacrifice: The world, I hear their cries. So what happens? He gets the knife in the side and later he falls to the earth in the shape of a crucifix. It was kind of nailing you on the head, but I enjoyed that, because I've always found the myth of Christ compelling and moving. So I hoped to do my own take, which is heavy s--- for a summer movie."
The Observer critic Philip French concurs, writing:
"Superman comes back to earth at a time of great crisis and is virtually crucified by Luthor, using shards of the deadly green Kryptonite crystals as nails. While he lies dying in hospital, his mother, Martha, is among the grieving crowd, while inside the sick room his son looks reverently at the Superman outfit lying on a chair as if it were the prophet's raiment, the martyr's shroud or the hero's armour. Something resembling a resurrection follows, accompanied by heavenly music"
The strongest moments are the sequences that prove this Messianic role Superman plays in society. The scenes when he flies into space and we "hear their cries". The world praying and seeking help - and the pressure Superman has as the only person who can make a change. From the footage of Man of Steel, the assumption is that the upcoming Zack Snyder film will tackle the dichotomy between Superman as an outsider, due to be "crucified" by those who deny his awesome power and Superman as a God, due to save the earth whether we agree with his methods or not. Fear against trust. It seems that the most profound sentiment, and the theme that resonates best, is the Christ story in the modern-era. Not the set-up-a-franchise "Superboy" thread ...

Like Father like Son

Almost as a deleted narrative, that refused to lay on the cutting-room floor, it is worth considering the 'Son of Superman' story. Isolation and loneliness is a key element to the film as Superman left earth to explore Krypton - only to return alone. He pines after Lois Lane, but she has moved on - leaving him on his own. His experiences and moments of reflection emphasize how his challenges and difficulties are unique to him - and something no one else understands.

In that regard, the idea of resolving this by presenting us with a Son of Superman doesn't feel too awkward. But it feels obvious. The set-up of Lois Lane bringing up a child, who is roughly the same age as Superman's visit to Krypton, seems a little too purposeful - and personal - destroying the "twist" that Superman has a Son at all. The relationship between Clark Kent and Jason also toys with his Father-like role to his son, and society - but it simply seems show-horned in. This is in addition to the relationship Lane has with Richard (Son-of-Perry) White - a strong, capable and loving Father to the Son Superman never had. Do we root for Superman to "win" Lois back? Do we see Richard White as a bad Father? On both counts, no. So is there any tension in this love-triangle? Again, no.

The Fall

As characters, multiple facets are weak, but it is worth considering the symbolic nature of the roles. The inevitable 9/11 reference will surely creep into a 2006 'event' movie release, with a deeply American character-story such as Superman Returns. And especially as Metropolis is, for all intents and purposes, New York City. Using the Father-Son thread as a starting point - and reminding ourselves of the [expensive]  use of Brando's footage to build further foundations between Son and Father, we can clearly feed this into a thought regarding the moment Superman falls to earth.

As Metropolis citizens look to the New York sky, they see Superman pierce the sky in a moment of shock and awe, before he falls to the ground creating a ground-zero in the middle of Central Park. What is surely a clear-connection, it is iconic God-like role-model and iconic God-like buildings hitting the ground and, from the dust, they rise up again. Superman, and the "American Way", is the foundation - and the Father - to the country. Americans and those in a post-9/11 world are the children to the American Way - but for a brief moment, the fall of the twin towers changed America and changed what it stands for. But, those foundations remain, and as Superman whispers to his son, they will be passed on and America will rise up from the dusty ground to be strong once again.

To weave in so many themes and ideas, it is inevitable that the film is too long. Despite the many, many themes buried deep into the story, the final act seems to continue from one action-beat to the next. Lex Luthor's destruction leads to Lois Lane nearly dying ... leading to Superman nearly dying ... leading to his regeneration ... leading to his comeback. And so it goes on. In a cinematic-sense, the "father" to this film was Richard Donner's Superman, but his was a flawed film and - though successful - had many problems that has consequently bled into Bryan Singer's "fragile" homage to the original. This should have re-started the Superman story but it did not, and Chris Nolan's Batman Begins showed us all how it "should be done". Such a template, seven years later, is crucially the reference point for Zack Snyder and his Man of Steel. And I cannot wait.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Sidney J. Furie, 1987)

"You know what I can do with a single strand of Superman's hair?"


Cannon Films. The infamous production company that managed to squeeze out too-many Chuck Norris films and, somewhat randomly, an Academy Award winning film in The Assault, took ownership of the rights for Superman in the late 1980's. Superman III was a critical failure and Supergirl simply flopped at the box office so the Salkinds, four years later, assumed Superman had outstayed its welcome and sold the rights to Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan when Cannon Films were at their peak. Christopher Reeve was reluctant to don the red-pants and iconic 'S' again but agreed to re-emerge as the Man of Steel if Cannon Films would finance and support a film project of his own (the project was a film called Street Smart, an underrated film that netted Morgan Freeman a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards in 1988). Unfortunately, Cannon Films were spread too thinly across multiple projects and Superman IV was treated as any other - and crucially the budget was slashed from £30m+ to a mere $17m (Nb, Superman III was $39m). Such a small budget for such a big film was clearly a serious problem. But, Gene Hackman returned alongside Margot Kidder (in more than a cameo) so the future looked bright.

Where were we?

It is worth reminding ourselves of the gap between films as this fourth installment is four years later. The necessary cast return but, in a misjudged use of character, the romance between Lois Lane and Superman becomes second rate - instead, introducing a new romance for Clark Kent in Lacy (played by Mariel Hemingway - all grown-up since Woody Allen's Manhattan). Lane is nowhere near as underused as in Superman III but the strange dynamic as Lois 'warns' Lacy off Kent is out-of-place. To make matters worse, there is a strange rekindling of the Lois/Superman relationship too - whereby Lois tells us she "remembers everything" (Since Superman II?), before he plants another super-kiss on her, wiping her memory again. Poor girl; these huge gaps in memory can't be good for your health.

This romance also leads us to a fatal-flaw in the film - Lois and Superman, flying, look awful. When the special effects aren't as good  as the first film in the series (now 8 years prior), it is clear that a deeper production-based issue has, once again, destroyed a Superman film. Each film seemed to begin with such strong, honourable intentions, but the productions on every film were flawed from the outset.


Ironically, the flawed production of an attempted blockbuster seems to be the type of situation Clark Kent would be proud to witness. The beginning of the film awkwardly establishes an anti-consumerist message as Kent refuses to sell the house in Smallville. He explains that the house and land needs to be used for farming - and not turned into real-estate or a shopping mall. This message is then reiterated when the Daily Planet itself is bought by David Warfield (Sam Wanamaker), a global businessman who intends to turn the Daily Planet into a top-selling tabloid. It is this situation that squeezes Lacy into the equation as Clark Kent's romantic interest is Warfield's daughter. Did the filmmakers not even realise that they were 'selling-out' on the film by "reaching a broader market" by including a young love interest for teenage boys to appreciate?

This message is a small-story against the main event pitting Superman against Lex Luthor again. As previously noted, Luthor seems to represent the greed and capitalist attitudes of America against the heroic, moral sense-of-duty America that Superman symbolises. But this time Luthor is not alone and, of his own creation, he breeds a new villain - a 'Nuclear Man' - born of the sun (Mark Pillow). Luthor again abuses the power he has created - but has become a powerful man through controlling energy. Simply by cutting out the sunlight, Nuclear man switches off and kneels before him. The assumption that Luthor is now a man who has taken control of a natural human requirement - energy. Now compare this to energy suppliers and water providers - companies who have benefited by financially dominating a market that humans cannot live without. In addition to this super-human, Luthor additionally has his nephew Lenny (Jon Cryer) to provide comic-relief. A dated-character with one-liners that often bomb, he may provide the subtext with a nepotist edge as this type of foolish person will surely inherit Luthors power. Or maybe Superman V would have shown us Lenny in true arch-rival mode...

"I don't belong to a particular country"

Despite this potential social-message, another political theme is weaved into the story. Rather than standing for "truth, justice and the American way", Superman now doesn't "belong to a particular country" and opens the film saving Russian astronauts. Rather than sell this brand primarily to the American market, I am positive there was a conscious effort to recreate the hero to represent the world as a whole. His speech at the UN is a testament to that. Furthermore, Cannon Films may have seen the similarities in the previous films and were keen to establish routines. A Superman-saving opening sequence, a new-romance and a new 'villain' in Nuclear Man. Simply adjust and replace - and surely set the film in different locations now that Superman doesn't belong to a particular country. Very James-Bondian.

Unfortunately, consistency has not been a feature in the Superman series and within this single film it is clear that Cannon Films jumped-the-gun. Indeed, if we don't believe in this world - we can't invest in the film personally. Starting the film with astronauts fully-clothed in spacesuits gives the impression that space is a dangerous place without such attire ... but this is not true, as Nuclear Man manages to carry Lacy far out into space without a change in atmosphere, pressure or even a change in clothes. Clearly Nuclear Man isn't aware of the necessary requirements of humans. The possible subtexts and interesting comments on a global-world barely registers and is completely ignored in the final act - instead, ending on an exceptionally long fight between Nuclear Man and Superman (he is turned off when in a building, but behind craters and in the deepest bowels of space he flies effortlessly?) as they fight on the moon and throw iconic landmarks at each other. Freedom is ... a weapon? Any potential thought-provoking elements are lost out to a wham-bang finale.

The End of the Christopher Reeve Era

Christopher Reeve is the greatest Superman we never had. Every film he portrayed the iconic role within was beset with problems and issues that often began at the very foundations of screenwriting. The first two films, if the Salkinds simply trusted the director, could have been more than merely memorable comic-book films. At the very least, they would have had a cliffhanger-ending that would rival Planet of the Apes.

The one scene in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace that manages to highlight how strong Christopher Reeve was, is a sequence whereby Clark Kent and Superman attempt a double-date with both Lois Lane and Lacy. In this single scene you can see how finely-tuned Reeve's mannerisms are and how his characters can completely change the dynamic in a situation. A clever sequence requires a justification - and we question why Superman would even put himself into such a comical and ludicrous position. I blame the screen writers.

The film ends on the note that "we" need to make the difference. Of course we do - why would anyone think anything different. Might as well have sold the house in Smallville, while telling Wal-Mart that they need to make the difference. Nothing really matters in such a sentiment and 'The Quest for Peace' seems to ignore the intriguing set-up in the first act - and settle for a 'catch-all' message that is easily understood by children. (Even Perry White manages to simply buy back the Daily Planet. Those powerful conglomerates are easy enough to simply buy-out). Maybe the producers needed to make a difference - rather than churn out scripts that simply didn't acknowledge the weight of such an important role. Christopher Reeve deserved better and this was an opportunity to right-the-wrongs of the Salkinds. If only someone decided to ignore the bad bits and keep the good bits ... and try again ... what would that look like?

[Cue John Williams score... cue the wink at the end]

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Superman III (Richard Lester, 1983)

"Never underestimate the power of computers."


The Salkinds seem to be key to all the problems surrounding the original series of Superman. It was the Salkinds who pressured Richard Donner during production of Superman and it was Alexander and Ilya Salkind who chose to stop production of Superman II after it was almost 75% complete. The documentaries that feature on the boxsets highlight how these producers take almost all the credit for the best elements of the series - but always pass the blame to others for the problems. Margot Kidder openly stated how badly the Salkinds treated Richard Donner and, consequently, her role was reduced to a cameo in Superman III. Gene Hackman refused to even appear in the film as he was so angry with them. Then - and here is a perfect example of a bad production team - when watching The Tonight Show, Richard Pryor's enjoyment of Superman II meant a quick-casting arrangement whereby Pryor became a lead role in the third installment. Hardly a strong start. At least Warner Bros turned down Ilya Salkinds first script ... whereby Braniac raised Supergirl and incestuously, fell in love with her, only to be rebuffed as Supergirl loves Superman.

The Fear of Technology and Returning to the Past

Crucially, the films opening seems to set a jarring, uneven tone. On  the one hand we see poverty-stricken, jobless Gus (Richard Pryor) rejected at the benefits office shortly before he sees an job advert looking for IT skills. Face a-glow, Gus decides to train in computing ... whilst Superman is introduced as a hero who saves the world from its own foolishness as an entire (what must have been choreographed) slapstick routine leads to Superman saving a man from drowning inside his car. The tone shifts within moments from potentially-serious narrative "Gus looking for a job" (a comment on the early 1980's US recession?) to a joke-hero who uses his powers to help/not help blind-men and their dogs and phone boxes falling down in succession.

Despite this clearly uneven tone, Richard Pryors character becomes a bit of an anomaly with regards to his morals. On the one hand, he uses the computers to steal pennies from everyone to make himself a fortune - perking the interest of Lex-Luthor-clone Ross Webster (Robert Vaughan) who manages to convince Gus to use his computer skills to adjust satellites. Gus is a strange character because he loves Superman and seems to only want to do the right thing - but also make a little bit of money for himself. He is constantly reluctant to get too involved and, inevitably, changes side in the final act to help Superman.

The flip-side to the story of Gus is Superman himself as he harks back to his past - revisiting Smallville for a school-reunion and falling for Lana Lang (Annette O'Toole - the actress who went on to play Martha Kent in Smallville). Inexplicably, Gus manages to use his computer-skills to re-configure Kryptonite but, improvising with the ingredients, he substitutes a key item with tar from cigarettes. Handed to Superman in a bizarre ceremony in Smallville when Superman was due to visit Lana's son Ricky, this kryptonite turns him 'bad' and he begins to care little about others - and happily blows out the Olympic torch.

So Much Potential...

What frustrates me more and more with the series is the potential of a strong film that always seems to drop in quality within seconds of the opening. Superman III could've been a film that tackled the social-state of the US, using Richard Pryor as a catalyst to become corrupted by the capitalist-core of the 1980's. Instead, Pryor is comic-relief to the obvious "big bad" Ross Webster. Superman III could've been a film that toyed with the duality of Superman as he is constantly fighting against the good role he should play - and the evil role he could play. Instead, it is a short-lived period in the middle-act that bad Superman figths Clark Kent (the 'good' Superman?). Imagine, a new crystal could be found that simply corrupts Superman as we watch a film whereby Kal-El struggles with a moral dilemma - to use his powers for good or evil. Superman III could have shown us a time whereby the power of technology begins to self-control and become an enemy unto itself - akin to The Matrix. Instead, it is simply a weapon briefly used by the villain to attack coffee plantations (???). So often, it seems to hint at an interesting subtext without truly gaining the scope or scale that it needs to create to explore the issues it wants to discuss.

Truth, Justice and the Anti-Capitalist Way

Superman and Superman II managed to always squeeze in a very Pro-America agenda - the immortal line "I stand for Truth, Justice and the American way" in Superman and the flag, renewed on the White House at the end of Superman II manage to clarify this. But Superman III is not as clear as he saves Colombia's coffee industry and straightens - and re-corrects - the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The anti-capitalist element in Vaughan's greed and obsession with more - alongside Pryor's attempt at doing the wrong thing for the right reasons - all seem to hint at another interesting meaning, which never pays off.

In true form, the final few scenes clarify where the confused-heart of the film lies. Or, at least muddies the water so that any interpretation remains unclear. Superman carries Gus Gorman to a coal-mine and hands him over, with a mighty-good reference ... only for Gus to wave goodbye to Superman, and then say goodbye to the job. It seems, he doesn't care for a job after all. Then, almost to add salt in the wound, Clark Kent woo's Lana - not through gentlemanly romance, but through the gift of a humongous diamond ring. It seems, at the end of the day - you do need money to get the girl and jobs are no-big-deal.

Christopher Reeve is incredible and, as it ended with "Superman will return in Superman III" at the end of the previous film, I half-expected to see such a promise again. But alas, no promise - and the next film from our favourite producers was Supergirl (which I shan't be analysing...) in 1984 before they sold off the rights to Cannon Films, who promptly made Superman IV: The Quest For Peace in 1987. The fact remains that this was a film whereby the Salkinds had complete control from the get-go - no Richard Donner to stop them from making the series 'campy'. They made the Superman film they had dreamed about and promptly stopped producing films completely... 

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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Tenant (Roman Polanski, 1976)

"I am not Simone Choule!"


The key to unlocking the 'Apartment' trilogy is knowing that the three films work hand in hand. Themes intertwine and connect; ideas weave between each film and complement each other. My visit to the BFI recently informed me of the psychological element to the series - a Freudian analysis dictated that The Tenant explored themes of repressed homosexuality within the lead character or Trelkovsky. The film is not an easy watch, and reading before or after a viewing will thoroughly inform you and ensure that the subtleties and themes expressed come to the fore - because otherwise it will play out as a strange story about a cross-dressing tenant losing their mind. Indeed, there is much more to The Tenant.

The Last 'Apartment' Film

As the closing act to the 'Apartment' trilogy, it is worth reflecting on the three films including Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant. All portray lead character who, we see their slow descent into a type of madness. The apartments in each film portray an enclosed space that becomes a place that limits their outlook - forcing the characters to become more introspective and lose their grasp on reality as they obsess and reflect on their own insecurities. Repulsion portrays Carol, the virgin who fears men and the sexual-attitudes; Rosemary's Baby portrays Rosemary, the hip New Yorker who fears that the baby growing inside her has a more sinister-side she is yet to witness; The Tenant portrays Trelkovsky, the Polish tenant who fears the apartment he lives within as the neighbours complain and moans about the slightest noise he makes.

In Repulsion, the neighbours are only seen fleetingly as they indirectly witness Carol within the house until the finale and they all witness her self-destruction. In Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant the neighbours become a larger role as in the former the neighbours are the Satanists who are too kind and too supportive of the unborn child whilst the latter shows every neighbour as a menace, each complaining about Trelkovsky's noises and reminding how much of an inconvenience he is. Polanski clearly intends the films to be symbolic - and this is most apparent in The Tenant as on the surface the story is too strange to be taken literally. Repulsion could be simplified to depict a woman slowly losing her mind and Rosemary's Baby could be simplified to depict a woman giving birth to Satan. The Tenant is more difficult - a man finding it difficult to blend in? A man who is secretly obsessed with transvestism? A man who slowly begins to believe he is someone else? This is a film that, as the Egyptian hieroglyphs clearly demonstrate, is meant to be symbolic. The question therefore is what is attempting to symbolise?

Family Problems

My own theory on the trilogy is rooted in the importance and influential nature of family. What defines hereditary illness and the impact of abuse within the family unit. Polanski has never been keen to use his own upbringing as an excuse to define the pessimism in his films, but the parrallels between The Pianist and The Tenant are more than mere coincidence. A "persecuted man locked inside an apartment, obliged to keep silent out of mortal terror from the neighbours, living or dying on the basis of whom he chooses to trust" writes Maximilian Le Cain in his essay Into the Mouth of Madness: The Tenant. He writes of a further parrallel as both characters use a window as a means to potentially kill themselves.

With this in mind, key photographs of family members are used throughout the trilogy - and in Rosemary's Baby, the film itself is about the beginning of a family unit. The single family photograph that depicts the detached-gaze of Carole is used throughout the film and noted in the final shot, hinting at an abusive family that may have influenced her actions in adulthood. In The Tenant, we see Trelkovsky set up his family portraits as one of the first actions when he moves into his flat - and, when staying with Stella, it is her family pictures that strike a chord as Trelkovsky physically rips the images in half, throwing the pictures across her flat and destroying her apartment. His own insecurities and lack of confidence may be rooted in his own upbringing - and his destruction of Stella's family album may tease an envious attitude that Trelkovsky desires. Even the couple who live alongside Rosemary in Rosemary's Baby and the older couple who own the apartment Trelkovsky lives within almost take on a parental role. Akin to parents scolding their child for minor misdemenours, Mr Zy seems to believe it is his role to dictate what Trelkovsky can and cannot do - it would not be unexpected if Mr Zy told Trelkovsky off witht he final words "when you have your own house, you can make as much noise as you want". The scream that Choule lets out, (clearly homaged in The Usual Suspects as the lone survivor shouts "Keyser Soze!") could represent the ongoing frustration of those born into a family that corrupts and changes you - you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family.

The three films together all explore the influence your upbringing has. The abusive Father in Repulsion; the corrupted and destructive marriage the baby has been born into in Rosemary's Baby and the relentless expectations forced upon Trelkovsky all explain the multitude of issues that adults often hold. And yet, as we know little of the families within each film - or in the case of Rosemary's Baby, we only see the outcome of the family unit at the end - there is an unspoken element. Despite the influence of the family... it is also the one element of our lives that we all feel uncomfortable discussing.


Mary Wild explained in her discussion Projections at the BFI that the undercurrent to The Tenant is Trelkovsky's repressed sexuality. That the film portrays him uncomfortable with women throughout - the only character he is close to, and is comfortable touching is a male character. Trelkovsky represses his sexuality and it manifests itself in the character of Simone Chule instead - a feminine woman with long hair, make-up and a sexy dress. Though I can appreciate Wild's interpretation, I am wary to make a clear judgement on the filmmakers attitude to this.

It seems like a naive assumption that transvestism and homosexuality is inextricably linked. In addition to this, any interpretation that Trelkovsky is going mad seems to associate insanity with homosexuality too. In both cases, whether this interpretation is true, it seems simple at best and insulting at worst. Even the poster hints at such 'deviant' acts as horrific: "something altogether new, altogether chilling". Personally, there is moment whereby Trelkovsky kisses Stella and, this moment, seems to indicate at heterosexual attitude - and his behaviour following this moment does seem to temper his transformation into Simone Chule. Having said that, the character Georges Badar does seem strangely out of place - and the few words this character states all have a strange tone. There is clearly something extra between Trelkovsky and Badar - but I'm not convinced that Trelkovsky is reciprocating any feelings towards Badaer. Could it be that Badar simply seems attracted to Trelkovsky as he has an emotional attachment to Simone Chule, the spirit that resides within Trelkovsky?


The Tenant is not an easy-watch - and I would not recommend this as a first viewing. It truly is the final part of a three-film series so it is essential to watch Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby, if only for the conversations afterwards that accentuate the multiple layers within the films. The Tenant clearly has multiple layers and they are not easy to grasp - especially on a first viewing. But this is clearly the point Polanski is making - that cinema is so much more than a passing-of-time. Cinema is deeply personal, and the links with The Pianist, give the indication that the entire concept of the 'Apartment' trilogy has connections to much more personal elements of Polanski's life than he lets on. The casting of himself in the lead role is also key - as it begs the question of how much of Trelkovsky is there in Polanski? Maybe the confines of Hollywood, represented by the apartment, and the pressures placed upon him in America has fed into his work - The Tenant was made two years after Chinatown and it was his final film before the fateful event that would ensure he never worked in America again. Maybe that was exactly what he wanted.

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