Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Tenant... Remake!

So I found out a while back that they are remaking one of my favorite films, THE TENANT. Michael Bay is producing. This seems like such an unlikely movie to remake because the first time around it didn’t burn up the box office - it’s kind of a cult film - and even though it’s based on a novel, it’s success is mostly due to its director, Roman Polanski. (Hey, didn’t Bill do a post on that guy a week ago, and that CHINATOWN film he directed?)

I am a fan of Polanski - not his criminal activities, but his film direction. This guy has a real style that can make the most normal scene into something creepy. It takes a while for the plot to kick in on ROSEMARY’S BABY, but you know from the start that something is very wrong because of the way Polanski shoots things. There’s a scene in ROSEMARY where the camera is looking through a door frame, and the subject is just off camera - you can see her legs, but her face only if she leans forward. And as a viewer you try to lean forward to get a better view. He loves to have the camera slightly tilted in scenes - not enough for you to notice, but enough for you to feel like something is wrong. And he does a strange thing in THE TENANT by building a room and furniture just a little bit larger than normal for a shot - so you don’t consciously notice the difference, but get the feeling that the protagonist is smaller than he was a minute ago. Not smaller in stature as much as smaller as a person. Polanski does all of this crazy stuff to make his films creepy and odd, and it’s usually not the *plot* that makes one of his films stand out as much as it’s the way he shoots and edits and the strange little moments. THE TENANT is an amazing collection of creepy moments shot in a creepy way, with a story that is also kind of creepy.

The story is kind of what would happen if Woody Allen wrote a haunted house movie. There is a serious housing shortage in Paris, and our hero Trelkovsky comes up with a great method for finding an apartment... he looks through the obituaries. When he reads a news story about a woman who tried to commit suicide by jumping out her apartment window and is not expected to live, he figures he’s found a place to live. He goes to the building, where he meets the manager (Shelly Winters) and the building owner who lives there (Melvin Douglas) and they give him the third degree. They are really picky about who they rent to. Of course, they can’t rent him the apartment until the last tenant dies. He goes to visit the last tenant, Simone Schull, at the hospital... to see how close to dying she is. He wants this apartment!

There he meets Simone’s hot friend Stella (Isabelle Adjani who was Warren Beatty’s girlfriend at the time), and he has to pretend he knew Simone. When he flirts with this girl, completely out of his league, she flirts back - they have poor Simone in common. At Simone’s bedside in the hospital - she is covered head to toe in bandages with only her eyes and mouth exposed - Simone takes one look at Trelkovsky, screams, and dies. He has his apartment!

But the apartment is, well, strange. First - all of Simone’s clothes and belongings are there. And everyone from the guy at the corner store to the local restaurant confuses him with Simon Schull - even though she was a woman and he is a man... and they don’t look a bit alike. Soon his life has gone to hell...

Here's the Trailer:

One of the cool things in the film is the use of the Luma Crane - first time it was used on a film. This device is an "arm" the camera goes on that can pan and tilt, allowing the camera to do all kinds of cool things. It's used in the opening title sequence, which has some similarities to Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW opening titles, in fact - the film is kind of like REAR WINDOW on acid...

What right does my head have to call itself me?

Filthy little brat!

Those wacky neighbors! This scene, near the end of the film, actually makes complete sense by this point in the film... The movie does a great job of making the crazy seem so normal, that we understand why he's wearing a dress and make up.

Now, can you imagine the mainstream version of this film aimed at the 15-25 year old demographic? If someone in that demo came to see this, thinking it was going to be a horror movie like FRIDAY THE 13th, what would they think?

The good news about the remake is that they have the amazing Scott Kosar scripting. He wrote THE MACHINIST, which has some similarities. Of all the screenwriters working in the biz today, he's the perfect match for this story... but who the hell will they get to direct it? And how will they sell something this weird to a mainstream audience?

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Great Character Introductions and those PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Popeye's Chicken - more grease! But *great* biscuits!
Pages: One scene on the Country-Western script, and I'd hoped to do three. But progress is progress.


Brian said...

This has to be one of the worst ideas for a remake since Brian De Palma's SISTERS. Kozar did a decent job imitating Polanski with THE MACHINIST but what's the point? As you said, it's not a title with mass audience awareness like ROSEMARY'S BABY. And if Kozar is teamed again with someone like Brad Anderson the question is now not about marketing but about art. What can a filmmaker expect to bring to the film that would be new? I've read the Roland Topor novel but Polanski and Gerard Brach did about as fine a job of adapting and expanding on it as can be imagined. There are few filmmakers working today who understand how important it is to create a strong visual and aural realism in order to slyly inject surrealism.

At best it would be an imitation. At worst, a teen horror flick with what Polanski called "tossed salad editing".

martinb said...

I think Polanski is excellent. His MACBETH is, for my money, the best adaptation of any Shakespeare play on film.

But THE NINTH GATE was dreadful.

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