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Pierre Rissient: the silent connoisseur, and maker of stars, speaks out about the film “SILENT ARMY”

The Global Film Village: Pierre Rissient: the silent connoisseur, and maker of stars, speaks out about the film “SILENT ARMY”
by Marla Lewin

Photo credit Jerry Schatzberg The French filmmaker Pierre Rissient appears in Todd McCarthy's documentary 'Pierre Rissient: Man of Cinema.'
Pierre Rissient was originally a publicist. He has gone on to produce and direct films. He is most known for his auteur discoveries, and he has shared with me, his joy most recently, about spending time at a film festival in Lyon, France, where he has so many fond memories from his youth. It was there that he supported the work of many legendary filmmakers.

I spoke to Pierre privately by phone, and then saw him at the AFI Film Festival, where he is nurturing another film he truly cares about, Jean van de Velde’s The Silent Army which is the official submission from Holland for this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film.

He may not mention it in conversation, but it is said that one of his more recent proteges is Quentin Tarantino.

Marla: Pierre I remember first meeting you in Telluride, at the Fine Line Features dinner with Mira Nair, she was very pregnant and about to start work on her film Karma Sutra. We were there with Lee Tamahori, who had just arrived with his film, Once Were Warriors, and Rena Owen, who had just won the Best Actress Award at Montreal. Lee had just won three additional awards at Montreal and an award at the Venice Film Festival. His film had screened at the Telluride festival,( and Marc was distributing it in the USA for Fine Line.) You told me how you had recommended the Robert Altman produced film, Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle, to Bob Shaye.

PIERRE: Yes, I remember, it was in that restaurant down stairs.

Marla: The Powder Keg, I remember you asking what we all did, and listened to all of our backgrounds. Then I asked you what you did, and you said, “I do many things.”

That was an understatement. Pierre has been a critic, curator, programmer, distributor, publicist, go-between, editor, filmmaker and advisor to major film festivals around the world. He is simply one of the world’s foremost film evangelists. For more about this fascinating man see Todd McCarthy’s documentary Pierre Rissient: Man of Cinema.

I remember you then at the picnic at Telluride, when they used to have it up on the hill, and you received a metal for your contribution to film.

Pierre, yes, I remember.

Marla: Whenever, I would see you, you would advise me, about what films to see. Iranian films, once you sent me to see a silent film, presented with the Alloy Orchestra. What Pierre, do think about the state of independent film at this time?

Pierre: I think it is a great time for film, with high definition and digital cameras, more people around the world are having the opportunity to make films. The important thing, is that they learn how to use a camera. The camera needs to be in the right position, the right lenses, not too many close ups, the camera needs not too much to be seen. Too many films being made right now are very slick. There are lots of special effects, and they are technically accomplished, but they are for young boys. I like Alex Payne films.

MARLA: Me too, he was on the jury in Cannes a few years ago, and when we talked with him he told us he was on his way to Paris, to make his section of PARIS I LOVE YOU.

PIERRE: These last years it has been more difficult to get films distributed.

MARLA: Are you seeing many trends at the festival now.

PIERRE: Honestly, I am so busy right now working with ”Silent Army,” and seeing some friends these few days.

I am not seeing as much as I normally would. I am going to see tonight, the documentary Some of Us Will Live.

MARLA: That is the film about legends Robert Boyle, Hollywood art director and production designer and cinematographer Haskell Wexler. I read you were just at the festival in Lyon.

PIERRE: Yes, this is so meaningful for me, very moving. I worked as a young man with Sergio Leone, and they honored Clint Eastwood. I worked with the first films of so many directors who are now legends, John Ford, Charlie Chaplin, Fritz Lang, their first pictures, many in the 60’s, 70’s. I was interested in Asian films, very early.

MARLA: Tell me about Silent Army. How were you involved with this film?

PIERRE: I believe in these films and filmmakers. I sat with the director, made a new version, which the director is very happy with. The greatest complement came from Norman Lloyd, who is 95 years old. Remember he worked with Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Renoir, and he came out of the screening and said, I salute you, with the cap of Jean Renoir.

MARLA: I would say that is about as good as it gets.

PIERRE: Oh, yes.

MARLA: Would you say that Silent Army is important to you because of the subject matter, young boys taught to kill.

Pierre: Yes, it is very important. On December 8th in Paris, unesco will join unicef, and all the embassies in Paris will join in to support the film and its’ cause.

Marla: How wonderful!

PIERRE: You must see this film on the big screen. I want you to see the quality of the work. It is important people see it around the world.

The Global Film Village: by Marla Lewin

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