|Image from tribute to Pierre at Telluride, 2018, photo by Eric Khoo|
When Pierre Rissient died last May, the loss was felt in film communities across the world. Pierre was an inveterate traveler and arch-networker who’d built up friendships with a multitude of ‘film people’ across the globe. He was amused and proud to be known in Asia as “The French Connection”. Even if we just look at Singapore as a case study, one can see how profound his influence was, particularly on the steady stream of Asian filmmakers heading off to European festivals each year.
Rissient was the quintessential ‘behind-the-scenes’ figure, so deeply embedded into the less illuminated recesses of the global film-industrial-complex (press wrangling, festival advising, production consulting) that even a budding UK cinephile such as myself had never heard or read his name until I came to Singapore/Asia in the early 2000s. Here, the name “Rissient” had a quasi-mythical resonance. He was known to have the power to make and possibly break a career, and was the subject of innumerable anecdotes on the film festival circuit, many based around his notoriously short fuse.
Researching Kinda Hot, my book on the making of Peter Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack, I began a dialogue with the French producer Pierre Cottrell, a close friend of Rissient. When it was published Cottrell sent him a copy and the next time he was in Singapore, mid-2007, he requested (demanded) to see me. Cottrell gave me firm instructions to meet Rissient at his usual resting place in Singapore, the Goodwood Park Hotel (owned by the Khoo family who had hosted the Saint Jack crew in ‘78), where he was in and out of meetings with filmmaker Eric Khoo and sundry Singaporean film folk. We had a very memorable lunch (a story for another time), and thus began my membership among the coterie of film lovers and film makers (“Friends of Pierre”) that Rissient would enjoy spending time with whenever we were in the same country.
Over the summer and latter part of 2018 I decided to revisit my memories of Pierre with some conversations (and some accompanying videos and images) with a few other Friends of Pierre from Singapore. For those interested, these dialogues also form a ‘shadow history’ of serious Singaporean cinephilia (certain key names will recur), and I hope, that for those who didn’t know Pierre, or are unclear about his influence and distinctive personality, they offer a flavour of an unforgettable, important presence. He was, as he said to me of Lino Brocka the first time we met, “a formidable man”.
(Click below for the conversations)
Part One: Chew Tze Chuan
Part Two: Boo Junfeng and Panuksmi Hardjowirogo & Michel Cayla
Part Three: Eric Khoo
Part Four: Warren Sin
Merci beaucoup to all the interviewees, plus Philip Cheah and Nick Palevsky for additional conversations.