C'était un Rendezvous - The Legend
You'd be hard-pressed to find a film as steeped in myth as "C'était un Rendezvous". Filmed in 1976 by seminal French director Claude Lelouch it is regarded as the ultimate in cinema verité.
For many years it has been enjoyed as an almost Masonic secret among car enthusiasts. Whisper the words "Have you seen Rendezvous?" and you'll receive either a knowing, "No, but I've heard it's unbelievable" or a smug, "It is un-be-lieve-able".
Lack of distribution has only fuelled the myths surrounding the film.
Was Lelouch really arrested when it was first shown?
Who drove the car? Was it Lelouch or a hired Formula One driver?
What was the car? Was it really a Ferrari 275 GTB?
How did he do it?
A composite version of the rumours/myths (garnered verbally and from the web) would read something like this ;
Lelouch had made enough money from his classic "Un Homme et une Femme" to buy himself a Ferrari, which he proceeded to drive with "enthusiasm" in his native Paris.
Whilst shooting another film, a new bit of equipment was being used - a gyro stabilised camera mount. Lelouch then came up with the idea for "C'était un Rendezvous". The camera used only had a ten minute film magazine - hence the mad dash to the steps of the Basilique du Sacre Couér in Montmatre.
On first showing, Lelouch was supposedly arrested. In his defence, he proclaimed he had taken all possible precautions. This included convincing a Formula One driver to helm the car (he refused to name him).
Subsequently the film went underground - occasionally shown in front of a Lelouch full-length feature on theatrical release. Outside of this, only poor quality pirate copies on VHS or a badly worn print were available. These would be played at car club meetings and slowly the film attained its mythical status with the arrival of the internet helping to spread the word.
What we do know is that there are no special effects or speeding up the film - Lelouch simply mounted the camera on the front of the car and shot it.
This is what separates "C'était un Rendezvous" from all other films - it's "verité".
Today, the audience walks into a movie, safe in the knowledge of computer-generated special effects or a production where there's enough money to block off streets and control the traffic. Lelouch had none of this.
Richard Symons, a documentary film maker, with more than a passing interest in fast cars came to hear of it and managed to acquire a very poor 2nd generation VHS copy. He wasn't disappointed....
"I'd never seen anything like it, 9 minutes of adrenalin that simply leaves your jaw on the floor. To cut a long story short, we got in touch with the director, dusted down the 35mm negative, restored and re-mastered it for re-release - we've brought out all the details and colours and it looks stunning."
"C'était un Rendezvous" has come to represent something more than an adrenalin rush. It uniquely captures a time and a spirit that seems a long way away from today. Lelouchs' brilliant ending only adds to this - making a beautiful sense out of the preceding nine minutes.