LOOKING BACK Goodbye, Pierre
As the year ends, I remember a friend who left this Earth a few days ago.
Pierre Carrel passed away on December 9, having been ill for a few months. I found out about it a week later, although I did know he was not doing well through a mutual friend (more on that later). He was one of my oldest friends in the Lausanne film professionals circle, and I’d like to remember him in this final entry for 2021.
I first talked to him in early 2010, although I had noticed him before that at press screenings: he attended them as the head programmer of a cinema in Echallens, not too far from Lausanne, as well as a member of the commission setting the age limits for films on general release in Canton Vaud. Like me, he would go to regular screenings for stuff he had missed, and that is how we struck up a conversation, as we were both heading to Pathé Flon to watch the first Percy Jackson movie.
This became the first of many talks we had over a period of eleven years, mainly in between screenings. He quickly realized what my specialist subjects were, like when, at the end of the press show of the third Chronicles of Narnia film, he asked me if I possibly knew about more of them being planned (he was not a fan of the idea). He also saw me perform on stage (his son and myself were in the cast of a university production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It), and came up to me immediately after the final curtain call to tell me how much he’d enjoyed it.
He had an unquenchable thirst for movies and would frequently travel to Paris to see the (mainly American) films that opened over there without receiving a release in French-speaking Switzerland. He was also a regular at three Italian festivals: the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, and the Pordenone Silent Film Festival. When I first arrived in Pordenone in 2019, he was thrilled to be able to talk about silent films with younger generations. Sadly, that did not come to pass this year, as he was already too ill to travel.
He did have his idiosyncrasies: he would occasionally – and gently – mock those of us who recognized actors from TV shows, as he made a point of never watching any television at all (“It’s all crap”, he said). And while he was open to dissenting opinions, he was not against questioning someone’s sanity if they liked a movie he had particularly loathed (but he would always make it clear he wasn’t being entirely serious). And we had a good chuckle together about The King’s Speech receiving an R rating in the US for containing one too many F-words – in Lausanne, and the rest of Vaud, the film was deemed suitable for viewers aged 7 and up (but recommended from 12).
After I left Lausanne permanently a few months ago, I made it a point of occasionally going back for select screenings, mainly to see the friends I’ve made since 2009. Unfortunately, Pierre will no longer be there to greet me with a stern look that concealed a big heart. He was a gentle curmudgeon, and I’ll miss him whenever I watch a movie I know we would have talked about passionately. Au revoir, mon ami.