Drivers’ Cinema: C’était un Rendez-vous (1976)
Some of our friends in Paris recently held a rally inspired by C’etait un Rendez-vous (1976), so we felt the film (also known as Rendezvous) deserved its own Petrolicious Drivers’ Cinema review.
The movie opens with the sound of an accelerating Ferrari 275 breaking the calm of a crisp dawn morning in Paris France. The engine roars as the car takes a quick turn onto an off ramp and a fast right. The tires squeal as the car overtakes those who are in its way. Famed French director Claude Lelouch is behind the wheel of the car and he is driving like a bat out of hell. Red lights are ignored, and pedestrians barely make it out of the car’s blazing path. This film is often referred to as the greatest racing film of all time. It takes the audience and places them on the front bumper for one glorious take of automotive splendor.
While the car may sound like a Ferrari 275, the car actually used to make the film was a Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 (sorry for shattering the dreams/hopes of those of you who were unaware). This is one of the most impressive feats of the film. Lelouch was actually able to trick audiences into believing the car being driven in the film was the Ferrari 275. He did this successfully through careful, yet not perfect, audio synchronization. The Mercedes was used because of its smooth suspension, which allowed for steady and smooth shots. The camera was mounted to the front bumper of the car, so the audience never sees the exterior. This movie was one of the first to use this unique angle and has inspired many racing movies that have come after it.
I enjoy this film because it fulfills nearly every one of my automotive fantasies: there is nothing like the raw sound of a Ferrari V12 firing on all cylinders, the driving is out of control (and frankly, reckless), I can watch knowing that I’ll probably never get the chance to do what Lelouch did in this lifetime or the next, and I can live vicariously for eight minutes through Lelouch and his wild maneuvering. Sadly, the route is impossible to complete by todays standards as a few of the roads involved have been changed to one-way streets. However, if you would like to give it a go, make sure you try in the month of August—the Parisians have the whole month off for vacation. Excuse me while I pack my bags.