C’etait un Rendezvous (1976): Thrillingly Irresponsible Filmmaking

Forget every car chase you’ve seen in film – they cannot compare to C’etait un Rendezvous (1976).

Synopsis: Director Claude Lelouch made this short film by strapping a camera to a vehicle and racing through the streets of Paris at jaw-dropping speeds.

When I say that no car chase can compare, it is quite simply because every filmed car chase is staged; planned, organized, controlled… not so with C’etait un Rendezvous. Lelouch filmed it in the wee hours of the morning to minimize pedestrian and vehicle interference; as well, one observer was placed at the only blind spot on the route with a radio to warn Lelouch of any pedestrians in that location. Apart from that, it is the driving skill of Lelouch alone that keeps disaster at bay (and believe me, disaster appears to be imminent when watching this short). Running less than 10 minutes, it is amongst the 10 most exciting minutes I have spent watching film. I covered my eyes each time he drove the wrong way down a one-way street; I chewed my nails whenever he went over the centre line (into direct oncoming traffic!); as he approached red light after red light, inside I screamed “green, green, GREEN!” I cannot emphasize how fast it seems Lelouch is driving, and the vantage point of the camera (which appears to be mounted on the front bumper) gives the impression that one is riding with Lelouch, sharing his insanity. I actually laughed with relief at the end (although the final shot of the film is also endearingly amusing). As an added bonus, when one is able to watch the film rather than hiding behind hands, we see the stunning beauty of Paris and its many iconic monuments whipping by.

I’m not sure it’s the most responsible filmmaking I’ve seen; in reality the director is lucky no one was injured or killed (he comes awfully close to pedestrians on a couple of occasions). But it is awfully entertaining. And with the knowledge in hand that no real damage was done, is becomes a true thrill ride.

It’s probably pretty hard to get your hands on, but this is a must for any fan of the car chase.


~ by K. Harker on December 6, 2010.

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