C'était un rendez-vous

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C'était un rendez-vous
Rendezvous poster.jpg
Poster for the DVD release
Directed by Claude Lelouch
Written by Claude Lelouch
Distributed by Spirit Level Film (DVD)
Release date
Running time
8 minutes
Country France

C'était un rendez-vous (English: It Was a Date) is a 1976 French short film directed by Claude Lelouch, showing a high-speed drive through Paris.


The film shows an eight-minute drive through Paris in the early hours of an August Sunday morning (05:30hrs) -- August, when all Paris is in vacation --, accompanied by sounds of a high-revving engine, gear changes and squealing tyres. It starts in a tunnel of the Paris Périphérique at Porte Dauphine, with an on-board view from an unseen car exiting up on a slip road to Avenue Foch. Well-known landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe, Opéra Garnier, and Place de la Concorde with its obelisk are passed, as well as the Champs-Élysées. Pedestrians are passed, pigeons sitting on the streets are scattered, red lights are ignored, one-way streets are driven up the wrong way, centre lines are crossed, the car drives on the pavement to avoid a rubbish lorry. The car is never seen as the camera seems to be attached below the front bumper (judging from the relative positions of other cars, the visible headlight beam and the final shot when the car is parked in front of a kerb on Montmartre, with the famous Sacré-Cœur Basilica behind, and out of shot). Here, the driver gets out and embraces a young blonde woman as bells ring in the background, with the famous backdrop of Paris.


Shot in a single take, it is an example of cinéma-vérité. The length of the film was limited by the short capacity of the 1000 foot 35mm film reel, and filmed from a (supposedly) gyro-stabilised camera mounted on the bumper of a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9. A photo has surfaced that seems to reveal an Eclair cam-flex 35mm camera with a wide angle lens, and a typical "speed rail" hard mount—no gyros—on a Mercedes. This model, which could reach a top speed of 235 km/h (146 mph), was only available with a three-speed automatic transmission, yet one can hear gear changes up into fifth, as well as heel-and-toe down-shifting with a high-revving engine indicating speeds of well over 200 km/h. Calculations made by several independent groups showed that the car never exceeded 140 km/h (85 mph).[1] Lelouch himself claimed that the top speed achieved was somewhere between 230 km/h and 240 km/h.[2] Lelouch claimed during a "making of" documentary that the soundtrack was dubbed with the sound of Lelouch's Ferrari 275GTB, which has a corresponding number of gears and a V-12 sound that is quite distinct from that of any V8, including the 6.9 litre V8 of the alleged Mercedes camera car.

A making-of-the-rendezvous documentary[which?] indicates that Lelouch himself was the driver, and that the car driven was the Mercedes, although the sound track is from a Ferrari. On the chosen course there were two people who knew to expect Lelouch. First there was Élie Chouraqui, his first assistant, who was posted with a walkie-talkie in the Rue de Rivoli, behind the archway exiting from the gardens of the Louvre palace, meaning to assist the driver at the only blind junction (archway);[3] however, Lelouch has revealed that the radios failed, and if Chouraqui had tried to warn him of a pedestrian the message would not have been received. Anyway, the traffic light at that junction showed green. The other person who knew about his arrival was Lelouch's girlfriend Gunilla Friden. He'd told her he'd arrive within ten minutes at the Sacré-Cœur and asked her to appear upon his arrival.

DVD release[edit]

In 2003, documentary filmmaker Richard Symons contacted Claude Lelouch and after six months of arduous talks,[4] persuaded him the film should be restored from its original 35 mm negative and re-released on DVD. Symons' company Spirit Level Film now distributes the DVD worldwide.[5]

Urban legend[edit]

Due to the content of the film it has become somewhat infamous for rumours surrounding the making of it and its exposition. Upon release it was not known who was driving the car and rumours circulated that it was either an unnamed F1 racer, a taxi driver or Lelouch himself. The most persistent rumour, however, is that the director Claude Lelouch was arrested upon the first screening. It is unknown whether this is true.[6]


route on a map

The route was as follows: Bd Périphérique (exits at Porte Dauphine) · Av Foch · Pl Charles-de-Gaulle · Av des Champs-Elysées · Pl de la Concorde · Quai des Tuileries · Pl du Carrousel · R de Rohan · Av de l'Opera · Pl de l'Opéra · Fromental Halévy · R de la Chausée d'Antin · Pl d'Estienne d'Orves · R Blanche · R Pigalle · Pl Pigalle · Bd de Clichy · (aborted turn at R Lepic) · R Caulaincourt · Av Junot · Pl Marcel Aymé · R Norvins · Pl du Tertre · R Ste-Eleuthère · R Azais · Pl du Parvis du Sacré Cœur.[7]

The route measures 10.0 km long, which indicates an average speed of approximately 77 km/h (48 mph).


Comments attributed to Lelouch indicate that he acknowledges the public's "moral outrage" over his method of shooting this film. He also states that he was prepared to take the risks in making the film, but that he however was also ready to drop it if he came across any unexpected risk (pedestrian, obstacle, etc.).[8]

In popular culture[edit]

In 2003 Nissan released a promotional DVD for the new (at the time) 350Z, entitled The Run. It featured multiple camera views of a copper coloured 350Z driving through the streets of Prague, ending with a rendezvous with a beautiful woman, an obvious homage to Lelouch.[4]

In 2007 the film was used as a video for Snow Patrol's song "Open Your Eyes".

In late 2009 a short film called The Fast and the Famous, directed by Jeremy Hart, was released on YouTube. The film features Jay Leno behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. During his circuit of Mulholland Drive, Laurel Canyon Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Drive, and Coldwater Canyon Drive, Leno makes several references to Lelouch's classic film.[9]

In 2010, Jeremy Clarkson used the film as a basis for the opening scene of his DVD/Blu-ray The Italian Job.[citation needed]

In 2013, Phoenix used the film as a backdrop for live shows during the song "Love Like a Sunset Part I".[10]


  1. ^ Rendez-vous. IMDB.[dubious ]
  2. ^ "Speed of a Car: C'était un Rendezvous". The Physics Factbook. Glenn Elert, ed. hypertextbook.com.
  3. ^ "Most Radical Car Movie of All Time". Dark roasted blend. November 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Rendezvous: Exclusive interview". Lovefilm.com. Pam Casey.
  5. ^ Rendez-vous Archived November 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. Spirit Level Films website.
  6. ^ "C'était un Rendez-vous (1976) Review". Thespinningimage.co.uk. Graeme Clark. 2004.
  7. ^ "Route during the "Rendez-vous" movie: dda's Pics and Story (1/1)". Virtualglobetrotting.com. 25 November 2005.
  8. ^ "Rendezvous Revealed" Archived November 6, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.. AutoMobile Magazine. November 2003 review. Bentleypublishers.com.
  9. ^ "Rendezvous? S’il vous plait!". Ausmotive.com. 31 December 2009.
  10. ^ "French rockers Phoenix satisfy less-than-full-house crowd at EMU". MLive.com. 

External links[edit]