Cannes Film Fest 2018: Pierre Rissient–Multi-Talented Influential Cinephile Dies at 81

Pierre Rissient, French producer, publicist and influential festival selector, has died. He was 81.

His death was announced by the Institut Lumiere and French director Bertrand Tavernier. “Pierre Rissient died last night. His wife Yung Hee asked me to let you know this, and, thinking of her, it is with infinite sadness that I write this message. Pierre was a great human being and total cinephile. We will miss him,” Tavernier wrote on the institute’s Twitter feed.

Former festival head Gilles Jacob tweeted, “Pierre Rissient was a super-discoverer of filmmakers, with an inestimable flair and curiosity. When he helped someone like Jane Campion, he took them under his wing and helped them develop their art. He loved and supported the Cannes Film Festival, I can say with sadness and feeling.”

Clint Eastwood credited Rissient with helping to change his image and reputation from wordless cowboy, to courageous director. He nicknamed Rissient as “Mr. Everywhere.”

Rissient was important in promoting and interpreting the works of Jerry Schatzberg, Coppola, Tarantino, Jane Campion, Kiarostami, King Hu and Filipino Lino Brocka.

In 2015, Rissient was the subject of a documentary, “Gentleman Rissient” made by the trio of Benoit Jacquot, Pascal Merigeau, and Guy Seligmann.

“Whether extolling the treasures of silent film, or defending the most recent film by a Zainichi Korean which profoundly affected him (‘Unforgiven’ by Sang-il Lee) or insisting on rereading Alfred Hayes, an American novelist and screenwriter discovered late in life, Rissient appreciates, discusses, becomes passionate, fights, always in the name of cinema or literature” the Institut Lumiere, wrote in its 2015 tribute to Rissient.

“He will at least avoid posthumous ridicule, unlike those in the 1970s who dictated good taste in the name of ideological considerations bogged down by semiotic or structuralist jumble.”

Rissient was a divisive figure. As much as he was highly esteemed by top directors including Clint Eastwood and Bertrand Tavernier, for pioneering, discovery work. But his domineering manner angered festivals and individuals in Asia. His discovery work initially gave him power, but his role in Asia was overtaken by the activities of sales agents, emerging institutions and other festival selectors.

The Institut Lumiere acknowledged as much: “This somewhat uncouth man has not made only friends in the industry, the close relationships he was able to maintain have sometimes suffered. Yet they all express the immense respect for his “eye” and his uncompromising convictions.”

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