Magazine article Screen International

Legendary French Cinema and Cannes Mover and Shaker Pierre Rissient Dies at 81

Magazine article Screen International

Legendary French Cinema and Cannes Mover and Shaker Pierre Rissient Dies at 81

Article excerpt

Influential figure who championed Clint Eastwood, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, Jane Campion and Im Kwon-taek passes away on eve of 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

Pierre Rissient

Pierre Rissient, the influential, behind-the-scenes mover, shaker and fixer in the French cinema world and the Cannes Film Festival, has died. He was 81.

French director Bertrand Tavernier, who worked alongside Rissient as a press attaché in the 1960s before turning to directing and was a lifelong friend, broke the news via the Twitter account of the Lumière Institute in Lyon, of which he is president.

“Pierre Rissient died last night,” Tavernier wrote. “His wife Yung Hee asks me to let you know and, in thinking of her, it is with infinite sadness that I write this message. Pierre was a great human being and an absolute film buff. We mourn him.”

Type multi-hatted Rissient’s name into online cinema database IMDb, and barely a dozen credits appear. Behind the scenes, however, Rissient was a legendary figure in the film world at home and internationally, respected for his deep knowledge of cinema, his nose for talented directors, and his ability to promote them and forge connections on their behalf.

The Cannes Film Festival once described him as “a figure who cannot be categorised”, while Clint Eastwood, who is one of the many stars and directors whom Rissient nurtured and supported over the years, nicknamed him ‘Mister Everywhere.’

“He operates in the shadows, like a secret agent. He is unknown to the public, but is treated like an oracle by curious cinephiles,” French cultural magazine Télérama wrote of Rissient in 2015.

Having gotten involved in the cinema world through the vibrant ciné-club scene in Paris in the 1950s and establishing and programming the French capital’s Mac Mahon cinema, Rissient tried his hand at directing, notably picking up a credit as assistant director on Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, and a handful of less famous titles in the early 1960s, before turning to film publicity.

Among the titles he handled as a publicist was Carlos Saura’s Peppermint Frappé, the premiere of which was famously abandoned at the ill-fated Cannes Film Festival in May 1968 when Godard helped shut it down as an act of solidarity with the student and worker protests sweeping across France at the time. …

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