Insane 8-minute drive through Paris for a romantic rendezvous

"C'était un rendez-vous" ("It Was an Appointment") is a short film by Claude Lelouch (1976) that has become a legend among car and movie lovers alike.

It is illegal, uncompromising, highly dangerous documentary, shot in one take, without any special effects... as the director starts his car early in the morning and races through Paris with complete disregard for traffic lights, one-way streets, cars, buses and pedestrians - to meet with his wife 8 minutes later in one intensely romantic ending.


Make sure to check out the comments at imdb and the movie's trivia page.

The length of the film (and of the race) was limited only by the short capacity of the reel of film - 9 minutes. The soundtrack opens with a beating heart and proceeds to sing the exhilarating song of the Ferrari engine: some people call it the best soundtrack ever created.

(image credit: Les Films 13)

Claude Lelouch drove his own "Mercedes" with the camera attached to its front bumper, reaching speeds of 150 km/h (this page gives a speed breakdown) - but then the ride was repeated a week later on Ferrari to use the sound of its engine for soundtrack.

Lelouch was arrested after the first showing of the movie, and so the footage spent many years underground, and only recently was re-released on DVD. Also, in 1992 Pyramid Film and Video released a low-quality tape priced at fifty dollars, making it one of the most expensive videos to obtain.

The Route.

Starting at Porte Dauphine, through the Louvre, to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. Going wrong way on the one-way narrow streets of Montmartre, dodging buses and garbage trucks, this is a hair-raising ride even at 5:30 in the morning. (no streets were closed, because Lelouch was unable to obtain a permit). Just like Jeremy Clarkson once said, "It makes Bullitt look like a cartoon".

Brian Hendrix has created a "mash-up" of the movie with the Google Maps of Paris, where you can track the route synchronized with a video:
Click here for this compelling experience.

The Cars of "C'était un rendez-vous"

Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9

Not an ordinary car, by any means. Quite the opposite: one of the most extraordinary and refined cars ever made. It was director's own car, chosen for its smooth suspension (providing a steady camera image). Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 was produced between 1975 and 1981 in extremely limited numbers, sporting a revolutionary suspension technology and handling that allowed to "toss it about like a Mini." The powerful 6.9-liter V8 engine achieved an output of 286 hp and assured a top speed of 150 mph (241 km/h).

The price was just as extra-ordinary. At the time when luxury limos went for about US$16,000, the 6.9 listed for around $40,000, more than most Rolls-Royces. The interior was refined, but somewhat understated for such a pricey vehicle:

"Car and Driver" magazine calls it "the greatest Mercedes-Benz ever built"...
Director John Frankenheimer used a 6.9 in a chase scene in his 1998 motion picture "Ronin".

1965 Ferrari 275 GTB

(images credit: S. Morliere)

The story behind the film

The whole thing was done on a whim, after shooting something else with a car-mounted camera, and using a leftover magazine of film.

From the review in November 2003 issue of "Automobile":

"His inspiration came when he found himself running late for an appointment and drove across Paris like a madman to be on time. The idea came to life in 1976, after Lelouch had finished directing Si c'était à refaire (If I Had to Do It All Over Again). At the end of the shoot, he had nine minutes or so of film left over and some time before he had to turn in his equipment. He had enough footage remaining for one take.

City officials rejected Lelouch's application to close the necessary streets. Undaunted, he decided to do it without permission and take his chances, reducing the risks by shooting at 5:30 on a morning in August, the month when almost all of Paris shuts down for vacation. The most dangerous part of the route would be the ticket-window area at the Louvre, where there was zero visibility at the courtyard's exit onto the Rue de Rivoli. An assistant, Elie Chouraqui, stood watch over the exit with a walkie-talkie...

The shoot went off as planned. With no signal from Chouraqui as he approached the exit of the Louvre's courtyard, Lelouch floored it and roared through the gates. After the rendezvous, Lelouch headed back to collect Chouraqui and found him fiddling with the walkietalkie. "What's up?" Lelouch asked. "It's this piece of crap!" replied the assistant, pointing to the walkie-talkie. "It broke down at the start of the take!"

Lelouch confessed to being the driver: "Of course. People were exhilarated by the action but morally outraged by the method. I can't say I blame them. It was my film, and I was fully prepared to take the risks." He was also arrested for his exploits. "They took a look at the film, and the chief of police called me in;" Lelouch recounted. "He read me a list of all the offenses I'd committed. It was never-ending. When he finished, he gave me a black look and asked for my driver's license. He contemplated it for a few moments, then gave it back with a large smile on his face. He said, "I promised I would take your license, but I didn't say for how long." I was stupefied. It was a symbolic punishment. Then he added, 'My children love your little film.'"

The Making of the "Rendez-Vous":

(courtesy http://www.axe-net.be/rdv/)

Finishing the interview, Claude Lelouch said:
"Yes, I was scared. I was scared of running out of film."

All legality and moral considerations aside (don't be a fool to try it yourself), the film poses a tintilating question: what would YOU do if you really wanted to meet someone, in the name of love?

Other source sites (in French): 1, 2


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now check out the Snow Patrol Video for „Open your eyes“...


Blogger Andy Jukes said...

Just thought of this movie three days ago for the first time in years! Found it on YouTube and was going to blog about it, but you beat me to it!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It was my film, and I was fully prepared to take the risks"

Very kind of him to assume anyone he could have hit was prepared to take his risks with him.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the name of Love?
Well, I'd call them and tell them I was gonna be 5 minutes late...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an automobile enthusiast and a lover of my wife; that was and is one of the most beautiful films that I have seen and heard in my life.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paris looked so quiet and deserted back then... Even at that time of day, nowadays this stunt would be impossible to perform. There's ALWAYS too much traffic to do something like this now.

Of course he was a selfish, reckless bastard. But sometimes, one needs to be... ;-)

Blogger Rob Roy said...

For a fascinating article on a cross-USA drive inspired by this movie, see

31 hrs, 4min at >90mpg AVERAGE speed.

Raises the same kinds of ethical questions.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should see the "Getaway in Stockholm" movie. At least first 3 parts.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what Googlemaps says it takes to drive this.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its a mercedes but its not real sound... Sound from ferrari...

Blogger cattylibrarian said...

In the interview he talks about the one turn he aborted (at Rue Lepic) because another garbage lorry was in the way...you can notice it in the film at about 6:15. He had to divert through the Cemetery and was afraid of running out of film. Amazing stuff...j'aime Paris!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a pretty good quicktime version of the film here, as well as lots of good info on the facts about the filming, as revealed by director Claude Lelouch himself.


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