The Driving Mystery of “C’etait un Rendezvous”

C'etait un Rendezvous

It’s been called the king of car-chase movies, though there doesn’t appear to be any actual car chasing. We never see the car, which speeds through pre-dawn Paris, and we never get the impression that there is any kind of chase going on.

For all we know, “C’etait un Rendezvous,” the 1976 short film by Claude Lelouch, was just a filmmaker, a car and a camera having 8 minutes of fun before the sun came up. Yet mystery surrounds the film and its maker. Legend says he was arrested after the film debuted for such reckless driving. But who was driving? What kind of car? Were the sounds dubbed in later? How fast was he going? Who is the woman at the end?

Keep reading for a clip from the movie and some possible answers to help explain the movie that Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson said, “Makes ‘Bullit’ look like a cartoon!”

Rumor holds that either Lelouch or an unnamed F1 driver piloted a Ferrari 275 GTB for the film. That seems pretty believable, considering the film appears to be shot all in one take and the soundtrack matches the car’s motions very well. However, some say the car was actually a Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 with V12 Ferrari sounds and a whole lot of tire squealing later dubbed in.

The illusion of speed can easily be created by mounting a camera low on a car. Combined with little traffic and a roaring soundtrack, the film could easily be explained by some terrific filmmaking. But… is there more to it? The mystery remains.

My take? Lelouch created a brilliant film about a man late for a date with a beautiful woman, because we all know neither red lights nor flocks of pigeons will keep us from the one we love.

The original film has been remastered and released by Spirit Level Film and is available on the company’s website.

Have you seen “C’etait un Rendezvous”? Did you like it?


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