C’était un Rendezvous

Paris, dawn, August, in the long hot summer of 1976




The story goes that after wrapping on a film starring Catherine Deneuve, having come in under budget and with a day of shooting time left, as he often managed, director Claude Lelouch decided to do something mad and foolish, make a guerrilla short. All you need to make a movie is a gun and a girl, is how Lelouch’s New Wave colleague Jean-Luc Godard had put it. Lelouch set out to show you didn’t need even that, just a fast car and a camera strapped on the front.

And that’s what C’était un Rendezvous is, a single shot from a slow-slung camera, as the car it’s attached to (a Ferrari?) hurtles through the streets of Paris at dawn, urgently changing up and down through the gears, tyres squealing on the corners, odd hazards such as other cars, a delivery vehicle, the rare pedestrian rushing into and out of shot, the car squeezing through the tightest of gaps, lurching from one side of the road to the other, on and on past famous landmarks, through wide boulevards to scarily narrow avenues, before it finally comes to rest with a final shot that explains it all (sort of).

Lelouch was right, a car and a camera is all you need. The low camera and the engine’s growl have the effect of placing the viewer in the car. It sounds almost stupid but this simplest of simple films, no CGI or effects of any sort, has you gripping the arms of chairs, pumping non-existent brakes, shouting “get out of the bloody way” when postmen nervously stick a toe out into the street.

There are so many myths surrounding the film it’s hard to know where to start. But look closer and it’s clear that the car isn’t travelling as fast as you at first think. It’s also entirely likely that those angry gear changes have been post-dubbed. Certainly Lelouch has recently claimed that the car being driven wasn’t a Ferrari 275 GTB but was his own more sedate Mercedes 450SEL (and the blog automobilesdeluxe.tv claims to have proof this was the case). And that the man at the wheel wasn’t a Formula 1 driver but Lelouch himself.

Whether the myths are true or not, Lelouch was arrested by the police for his bit of dawn bravado. This restored version of his original film delivers simple thrills of the most visceral sort, transports us back to Paris when it looked like Paris at ground level – almost all the cars on the street were French, McDonald’s was still tucked up on the other side of the Atlantic – and for the scant nine minutes that the film endures (the camera could only hold ten minutes of film), we’re back there, the car angry as it tears down the innocent streets in the half-light. Doesn’t it look great.

© Steve Morrissey 2013


C’était un Rendezvous – at Amazon





1 April 2013-04-01

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook

 Out in the UK this week


Silver Linings Playbook (EV, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Almost entirely brilliant from first breath to last gasp, David O Russell’s beautifully made, perfectly acted adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel follows bipolar Bradley Cooper and his faltering relationship with fellow psychiatric case Jennifer Lawrence. If you’ve ever doubted Lawrence’s epic ability, watch this. In fact she’s so good – essentially mainlining Juliette Lewis – that she forces a good performance out of Robert De Niro, who is just one nugget of brilliance in a cast including Jacki Weaver (if you haven’t seen her in Animal Kingdom you have missed out) and Chris Tucker (entirely forgiven for those Rush Hour films with Jackie Chan). Intelligent, emotional, gripping – that’s enough, isn’t it?

Silver Linings Playbook – at Amazon



The Heist aka Maiden Heist (Signature, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

It has taken four years for this film to creak out onto DVD. It is, as the title (originally The Maiden Heist) suggests, a caper movie, and stars Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman and William H Macy as security guards in an art gallery who decide to heist the works they have fallen in love with, rather than see them shipped off to Norway, to be replaced by conceptual works featuring the artist’s penis, if I remember rightly. As a heist movie it’s competent, as a comedy (which is what it foolishly sets out to be), it’s less so. At one point William H Macy does comedy running about – always a sign of desperation – and Macy also does a fair few nude scenes. So for some people, their ship has probably just docked. It’s not awful – Walken, Freeman and Macy all know what they’re doing, they’re always worth watching. Er…

The Heist aka Maiden Heist – at Amazon



10 Years (High Fliers, cert 12, DVD)

Aiming to be The Big Chill for the N’Sync generation, this high school reunion drama stars Channing Tatum, Justin Long, Rosario Dawson and Kate Mara, all of whom sit snugly in a universally tight ensemble who catch that odd note of regret and exuberance that seems unique to reunions. Yes, there is the initial suggestion that this is a film done on the lam – Tatum, for instance, has the paunchy look of a Hollywood star who put his face back in the trough once shooting on The Eagle was over. But it’s a much more accomplished film than that, and skilfully weaves many isolated stories into a satisfying whole.

 10 Years – at Amazon



The Road: A Story of Life and Death (Verve, cert E, DVD)

Marc Isaacs is an amazing documentary maker and The Road – focusing on the A5 as it runs out through Kilburn in North London – is an amazing piece of work. A snapshot of London, it also chronicles a process of renewal, with Isaacs capturing the moment when one generation of immigrants (among them a Jewish refugee from Hitler and an Irish man who spent a lifetime on the roads and railways) yields to another. If this sounds a little arid, Isaacs makes it anything but with his close access and intimate questioning getting the sort of answers from his interviewees that make the eyes widen.

 The Road – A Story of Life and Death – at Amazon



C’était un Rendezvous (Spirit Level, cert E, Blu-ray/DVD/download)

In 1974, having just finished a film with Catherine Deneuve, under budget and with a single can of unexposed film left, nouvelle vague auteur Claude Lelouch decided to strap a camera onto the front of a car and send it haring through the streets of Paris at dawn. The stunt got Lelouch arrested but C’était un Rendezvous is the result of it, a hair-raising single-shot dash whose soundtrack comprises an engine urgently changing up and down the gears and tyres squealing through the corners. Watch it with headphones on, Richard Symons of Spirit Level Films told me. I did. And as the car went through the corners, I found myself leaning left and right into the bends and hitting the imaginary pedals. It lasts only nine minutes, but it is nine minutes of visceral excitement.

C’était un Rendezvous – at Amazon


Everyday (Soda, cert 15, DVD)

Michael Winterbottom’s drama stars John Simm as a man in prison and Shirley Henderson as the wife trying to keep the family together between prison visits. It was shot over five years, so we see their children grow up, and delivers two familiar messages – that criminality passes down through families, and that it’s the family who suffer when someone is inside. Slight but beautifully acted (special mention for the kids).

Everyday – at Amazon


Baise-Moi (Arrow, cert 18, DVD)

If Thelma and Louise had been written by Quentin Tarantino and was populated entirely by porn stars, it would have something of the lurid grunge factor of Baise-Moi, now released uncut with the offending 10 seconds of material reinstated in the brutal rape scene near the beginning. It stars Raffaella Anderson and Karen Bach as a pair of good looking girls on a revenge spree who seem particularly good at fellatio and killing men. Note how when a man turns up in Baise-Moi, within minutes he’ll either have his cock out or his head blown off. Or both. The reason why this notorious item isn’t considered to be hard core pornography is because a) there is a story of sorts and b) it’s French.

 Baise-Moi – at Amazon


© Steve Morrissey 2013