Tuesday, March 17, 2009

C’etait Un Rendezvous

I was interviewing Piloti founder Kevin Beard for an article at work today, and he mentioned a short film from 1976 called “C’etait Un Rendezvous.” I’d never heard of it.

Piloti, which makes shoes for racecar drivers, will play this nine-minute French film on a loop for trade show and department store displays, sometimes on multiple TVs next to a street-dirty racecar.

“You’ve got to look it up,” Beard told me. “The director is Claude Lalouch, who did ‘A Man and a Woman.’ He mounted the camera on the bumper of a big old Benz. It’s real-time -- he starts at the Périphérique in Paris and goes to Montmartre as fast as he possibly can at about 4 in the morning on a Sunday, just at dawn. And he blows like, 30 or 40 stoplights. It’s a cinéma-vérité. It’s nine minutes long; it’s essentially one roll of Panavision film.”

With that kind of endorsement from a guy who makes his living in the racing world, I had to see it.

There are a lot of rumors about the film, but from what I can glean, Lalouch or a hired Formula One racer drove a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL (and probably not a Ferrari, as some websites claim) with a gyro-stabilized camera on the front bumper. The Wikipedia entry claims that you can hear the car shifting into fifth gear, and that calculations by several sources indicate that the car reaches about 140 miles per hour. Some claim though that Lalouch dubbed in sounds from his five-speed Ferrari.

The film has become legendary, with bootlegs apparently being traded for years. More recently, fans have edited it and provided their own music soundtracks. Spirit Level Films has re-released it as a DVD for about £10, but it can be found in various forms on the internet.

The film is below -- having the sound up is essential:

And here is a short documentary on the making of the film:



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