Variety chief film critic and occasional documentarian Todd McCarthy (Visions of Light) has called Pierre Rissient “the least known, most massively influential person in international cinema”—little known, that is, except at many of the world’s leading film festivals, where Rissient is a longstanding fixture recognized for such dogmatic pronouncements as “It is not enough to like a film. You must like it for the right reasons.” But who is Rissient exactly? He has been a publicist and distributor, whose efforts were instrumental in re-establishing the international reputations of John Ford and Fritz Lang; a film programmer to whom Jane Campion and the late Edward Yang owe their earliest exposure; and an omnivorous movie buff whose knowledge of celluloid arcana is rivaled only by his vaster T-shirt collection. Featuring appearances by Clint Eastwood and Quentin Tarantino, among many others, McCarthy’s witty and elegant film hauls this legendary, behind-the-scenes figure out of the shadows and into the spotlight, while celebrating the spirit of cinephilia that continues to be Rissient’s raison d’être. Alongside the New York premiere of Man of Cinema, MOMA is presenting a related series, “From the Archives: A Pierre Rissient Selection,” consisting of films championed by Rissient (including Ida Lupino’s Never Fear and Campion’s The Piano), plus a rare theatrical screening of his own film, 1982’s Cinq et la Peau.
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