In addition to the official selection of films, the Cannes Film Festival has a tribute or two or three. These are small, casual events honoring people in various aspects of the 7th Art. Among the special events this year was an evening honoring cinematographer Ed Lachman, and a program remembering the late Pierre Rissient, who passed away just before the festival began.
In addition to his work as a DP, Ed Lachman is a huge cinephile. I’ve had the privilege of watching and discussing films with him during many editions of the New York Film Festival. On May 18th the Cannes festival presented the Pierre Angenieux Excellens award to him.
Given since 2013, the award is given by the Angenieux Lens company to distinguished cinematographers. Lachman has worked with major directors, including Todd Solondz, Ulrich Siedl, Robert Altman, Steven Soderbergh, Sofia Coppola, Paul Schrader, Mira Nair, Susan Seidelman, Wim Wenders and Todd Haynes, who was on hand to honor him.
After remarks from friends and colleagues both present and via video and a clip reel (the same one I worked on with Jump Cut Creative for last year’s Gotham Awards tribute to Lachman in New York City), Lachman was presented with a high-end camera lens with his name engraved on it as a trophy.
At the same time, the company gave what is titled ‘Special Encouragement’ to young Chinese cinematographer Cecile Zhang. Zhang is a recent graduate of the Beijing Film Academy and will have her choice of an Angenieux lens for her next project.
In his remarks, Ed summed up the importance of cinematography in the filmmaking food chain. The work of the cinematographer is, he said, “responding to time, space and light.”
I generally fly to Paris for a day or two before taking the train to Cannes for the festival, and my itinerary was no different this year. On Saturday night I had dinner at a French journalist friend’s home. Other friends who were in the business were there as well, one of whom had just visited Pierre Rissient earlier that day. On Sunday night, at another friend’s home for dinner (this time an American filmmaker), we were mourning Pierre, who had died suddenly that morning.
His death on May 6, just two days before the festival opened, gave Cannes the opportunity to pay tribute to a man who was instrumental in introducing so many filmmakers to the world through the festival.
Pierre was one of those film people whose exact job (at least later in life) was difficult to describe. Film programmer, publicist, scout: He did all of those things and more, sometimes in an official capacity, sometimes not. But he brought untold amounts of filmmakers to the attention of the Cannes festival and therefore to the world, including Clint Eastwood and Jane Campion.
He started out talking himself into a job as a film programmer at the MacMahon cinema in Paris when he was a teenager. He went on to become a publicist - along with friend Bertrand Tavernier. And he developed his keen ability to discover new talent.
I met Pierre at the New York Film Festival many years ago. I’d been working with the festival for just a couple of years so was young and still a bit inexperienced. Pierre had a big deep voice and very strong opinions, but even though we disagreed about a short film that was being shown, he enjoyed listening to me and debating the film with me. I’ve always appreciated that about him.
In Cannes on May 14th, some of his great longtime friends reminisced about Pierre. Thierry Fremaux, head of the festival, Tavernier, and writers Scott Foundas and Todd McCarthey all shared memories. This impromptu tribute was followed by a screening of the 1982 film “Cinq et la peau,” one of two films he directed.
Pierre was indeed a fixture at Cannes. He will be missed. And he cannot be replaced.