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C’était un Rendez-vous is a short film by French film director Claude Lelouche. Lelouch is probably best known for A Man and a Woman. Filmed in 1976, the plot is nonexistent. All Rendezvous shows is a man driving through Paris at the break of dawn to meet his girlfriend. Of course that's sort of like describing Babe Ruth as a 'decent hitter'. Trust me, you won't be able to look away.

You see, Rendez-vous is a full boil run through the streets of Paris. The sound is riveting. You hear the motor climbing, third, fourth, fifth gears and as the revs climb and lightposts grow closer and closer together until they look like posts in a picket fence. Startled Deux Chevaux drivers appear and disappear like street signs. Tires squeal at the appropriate moments as the driver negotiates corners and sidestreets, and the Place de l'Etoile. Famous landmarks appear and disappear like convenience stores. Red light? We don't need no stinking red lights! They are summarily ignored. The driver seems to make one mistake, he starts a fork realizes he's not going to make it and defaults to a second choice a narrow alley. Until the drive ends around 10 minutes later atop the steps of Monmartre and we see for a brief instant the reason he was in such an awful hurry.

And no, the roads were not closed. As they say at the track, Wooomah!

What makes Rendez-vous work is that Lelouch had just developed a gyro-stabilized camera mount that had been used for one stairway sequence. It appears to have been attached to the front bumper. Lelouch also seems to have been a bit of a motoring enthusiast. He owned a Ferrari 275GTB and many believe Rendezvous was filmed using that car. The car was never named. I watched it with a bunch of guys with decades of racing experience: GT-4, Showroom Stock B, D Sports Racer, G Production and myself Improved Touring B. Our consensus was he drove a Porsche based on the engine sound, (most Ferraris are higher pitched). Lelouch never named the car, or the driver, who is reputed to be a Formula 1 hotshoe.

Nissan recently filmed a 'remake' using closed roads and two 350Zs. We watched it too, and the two Z cars weren't moving nearly so fast as the car in Rendezvous. I cannot help wondering if Lelouch's little short hasn't influenced a whole generation of video game designers.

Frankly, I'm sick of Hollywood's obligatory chase scene. Most car guys can't stand The Fast and the Furious because we know how hokey the whole thing is. Bullitt and The French Connection showed how to do a chase right. But Rendez-vous trumps even Steve McQueen's classic, and McQueen could drive a bit. It's nine minutes of rubber-burning fun.

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