‘C’etait un Redez-vous’ vs a Shell F1 TVC

Recently I happened to see a great 2007 television commercial which celebrated Shells then fifty years association with Ferrari and it’s racing team. It features a few of the iconic Ferrari F1 cars racing through the streets of some of the world’s most famous cities and when you play it, turn the volume up as loud as possible, as the sounds of the cars are intoxicating ….. that may be a bloke thing though!!

Ferrari Shell commercial

After watching that commercial several times, it reminded me of another classic car moment from 5:30am on a Sunday morning in August 1976 in Paris when famed French film director Claude Lelouch produced an eight-minute, one shot single take short film with no cuts and no special visual effects, titled ‘C’etait un Redez-vous’. Translated, the title means “It was a date” and according to Lelouch, the intention was to capture the urgency when a young man rushes to pick up his beautiful date late at night.

Well-known landmarks such as the Arc De Triomphe, Lalais Garnier, and Place de la Concorde with its obelisk are passed, as well as the Champs-Elysees. Pedestrians are passed, pigeons sitting on the streets are scattered, 18 red lights are ignored, one-way streets are driven up the wrong way, centre lines are crossed, and the car drives onto the sidewalk to avoid a rubbish truck.

There are many stories based around how the film was made, including that Formula One driver Jacques Lafitte was behind the wheel of a Ferrari and there were many people involved in the production.

However, the truth (apparently!!) is that Claude Lelouch drove his own Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 litre V8 with hydro-pneumatic suspension (a good choice for driving on the cobble stone streets of Paris at high speed) with a camera mounted to the front bumper bar, while the sound was dubbed in later during post-production using Lelouch’s own Ferrari 275GTB that had the same number of gears as the Mercedes but with a V12 tone which is quite distinct from that of a V8.

On the day of the shoot, only two other people were involved, Lelouch’s first assistant Elie Chouraqui, who with a walkie-talkie was posted to assist him at the only blind junction – behind the archway exiting from the gardens of the Louvre Palace, however, the radios failed, and if Chouraqui had tried to warn him of a pedestrian the message would not have been received, but fortunately the traffic light at that junction showed green. The only other person was his Swedish girlfriend Gunilla Friden, who Claude dropped off on the morning at the Sacré-Cœur and was simply told when he returned in ten minutes she was to walk toward the car, and so the classic final scene of the young man embracing his beautiful date….. and on time.

‘C’etait un Redez-vous’ really is an amazing piece of cinematography and I hope you enjoy it:

C’était un Rendez-vous

When the film became public knowledge there was public outrage at how it was shot and after all there was ample evidence of multiple serious traffic offences which became a problem for Claude Lelouch. 

Apparently, there was one famous incident when Lelouch was pulled over in Paris by a policeman who immediately recognised who he was and stating that he had orders to take his driver’s license from him, seized his license.  However, since he was a big fan, moments later the policeman returned the license to the famous movie director satisfied that in theory, he had complied with the orders from the ministry of justice.

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