According to Pierre Rissient, “It’s not enough to like a film. You must like it for the right reasons.” Rissient, a celebrated fixture on the international film-festival circuit for four decades, is the subject of this documentary, largely shot on that same circuit, by Todd McCarthy, chief film critic at Variety.
After a cinematic education in Paris and assistant-directing work on Breathless, Rissient turned exhibitor, promoter, and general mover and shaker: “The yeast in the dough,” Werner Herzog calls him. A major force at Cannes, he was an early champion of Losey, Eastwood and Campion, and of the cinema of Asia, where he shot a couple of pictures himself. In his time, he struggled to keep John Ford sober in Paris and accompanied Fritz Lang to Deep Throat in Los Angeles.
Rissient is described as a legend to “those of us who live in the world of film.” Those who don’t might struggle to see the point (or indeed keep up—if you don’t already know who interviewees like Thierry Fremaux and Michel Ciment are, McCarthy won’t tell you). The approach is essentially chronological, but Rissient’s biography does not make compelling narrative—nor is McCarthy’s argument about the importance of his work strong enough to justify such lengthy praise.