Cannes Festival to Pay Tribute to French Cinema Veteran Pierre Rissient

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Pierre Rissient

The influential French cinephile, historian and director died this weekend at age 81.

The Cannes Film Festival will pay tribute to French film fixer and behind-the-scenes mover and shaker Pierre Rissient.

Rissient, a fixture at Cannes for more than 50 years, died this past weekend at age 81.

“Pierre was one of the most important members of the Cannes community and of the festival, putting all of his creative energy into helping it show films from distant countries,” said the festival Tuesday. “We would wait for him to arrive on the Croisette every year with a mixture of joy, impatience and some nerves, too, because he had such strong and original views on cinema and on the Festival de Cannes.”

The festival acknowledged the many directors that Rissient, as a distributor, producer and project scout, helped champion at Cannes, including Martin Scorsese (Rissient helped bring Mean Streets to Cannes in 1973) and Australian director Jane Campion, whom Rissient “discovered” and helped shepherd all the way to the Palme d'Or (for The Piano in 1993). 

“There will be much to say about the importance of this behind-the-scenes operator; many people will do so in the coming days, months and years,” the festival said, noting Rissient's close connections with directors as varied as Clint Eastwood, “with whom he had an unshakeable bond,” Claire Denis, “whose artistry in directing he loved so much,” and Quentin Tarantino, “who loved hearing him tell Hollywood stories that even he didn’t know.

“Today our thoughts are with his wife, Yung Hee, his sister, Anne-Marie, and her husband and children,” the festival said.

Rissient was due to present a restored version of his 1982 feature Five and the Skin on Monday, as part of the Cannes Classics section. The festival will dedicate that screening to Rissient's memory and one of Rissient's oldest friends, French director Bertrand Tavernier, will attend.