Cult Movies (and Not Only): “S’était Un Rendezvous

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Claude Lelouch is a French filmmaker borned in Paris in 1937. His most known movie is probably “Un homme et une femme”  (A Man and a Woman) 1966 as it won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival aw well as two Oscars including best foreign language film. An interesting point is the beginning of his career as he filmed daily life in the U.S.S.R. with a hidden camera under his coat.

Obviously he was interested about sports events as he also filmed 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Tour de France. That fact maybe is connected with his attempt of making later the totaly insane filming of  “C’était un Rendezvous” (”It was a Rendezvous”).

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This short film, (approximately duration only 9 min) was shot on an August morning in 1976 (most possible a Sunday morning on a holiday weekend) through the almost empty Parisian streets. Myths and rumors cover the film since then and it is difficult until now to trace the truth.

Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear, BBC) said about “It makes Bullitt look like a cartoon” as what only Lelough did was to mount a gyro stabilised camera on the bumper of a car and drive at breakneck speed from Porte Dauphine through the heart of Paris to  Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre.

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After the film preceding Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”, Lelouch was supposedly arrested and since then only poor quality pirate copies on VHS were available played at car club meetings. Lack of distribution until a few years ago has only fuelled the myths surrounding the film.

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What we only know for sure is that there are no special effects or speeding up the film. The footage reveals running real red lights, nearly hitting real pedestrians, and driving the wrong way up real one-way streets. The reality of no special effects, edits, or blocking off streets is stunning or by others terrifying. Anything else about is uncertain, for example:

What was the car? A Ferrari 275 GTB or Lelouch’s 450SEL6.9 own Mercedes (an ideal camera car thanks to its air suspension) with overdubbed audio band in the final copy?

Who drove the car? Was it Lelouch or a hired Formula One driver?

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Ferrari 274 GTB   Source                                               Mercedes 450SEL 6.9   Source

Was there any lookout spot? The most dangerous part is the door in the Louvre because the driver can not see if other cars are coming. Therefore it is said Lelouch asked a friend to stay at the door with a walkie-talkie — which afterward turned out to be broken.

Director’s sophistic interviews and a “making of ” documentary in 2006 raise more questions rather than providing us with clear explanations sustaining the myth. 

And here is the route (any help is welcomed if I mistake):

Porte Dauphine- Avenue Foch- Place de l’Etoile- Champs-Elysée- Place dela Concorde- Quai des Tuileries- Place du Carroussel- Avenue de l’Opéra- Place de l’Opéra- Rue Halévy- Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin- Rue Jean Baptise Pigalle- Place Pigalle- Bd de Clichy- Rue Coulaincourt- Avenue Junot- Rue Norvins- Place du Tertres- Parvis du Sacre Coeur.

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