If you’re one of those deeply concerned souls that regard cars as an evil that should be banned go weave a basket for five or ten minutes, this is not for you. I have just spent $50 on a DVD that runs for nine and a half minutes. It’s the best $50 I’ve ever spent.

In 1966 French movie director Claude Lelouch made a movie called A Man and a Woman that became so successful it was practically compulsory viewing for a generation of beautiful people. So what did he do with the profits of this sensitive, deeply caring little love story? He bought himself a Ferrari 275 GTB/4, that’s what. This was one of the last great front-engined V12s from Enzo and the boys and is still regarded as one of the best cars they’ve ever built.

A few years later while making another movie he came across one of the first movie cameras with a built-in steadycam so good it could be strapped to a fast-moving object and record quality vision. Its shortcoming was that it could only take nine and a half minutes of film. It didn’t take Lelouch long to figure out that strapping one to the front of the Ferrari would make a helluva short movie.

Technically it’s possible to get from Port Dauphine to Place du Tertre in nine and a half minutes if all the lights are green and there’s no traffic and you can wind it up to 200 kmh or so, and along the way you get some lovely scenery and landmarks like the Champs Elysees and the Opera Garnier. Now there’s a plan.

He did it at 6 one summer morning in 1977 when most Parisians were out of town and traffic was light. The resulting short, Rendezvous, is stunning. The only sound is the deep, harsh, utterly awesome V12 at full noise, the vision is simply spectacular. There is no editing, it’s all one take, one time only. The many red lights, the bus honking because the Ferrari has crossed to the wrong side of the road, the pigeons, the garbage truck and the woman pinned against the wall with her dog are all real.

A magistrate who saw the movie summoned Lelouch to court where he demanded his licence be handed over, the evidence being fairly compelling. The magistrate then contemplated the licence, turned it over and handed it back to Lelouch, beaming, “I promised I would take your licence, but I didn’t say for how long.”

Rendezvous has been an underground legend for decades. Most car nuts have heard of it and some had seen it. Occasionally you’d meet someone who had it on VHS, invariably bootlegged and in appalling condition and despite that you’d beg for a copy for yourself.

British enthusiast Richard Symons got together with Lelouch recently, took the 35 mm original away for digital restoration and socked it all onto a DVD that is selling for $49.95 of pure, bona fide, unadulterated profit. Who cares? It’s the most exciting nine and a half minutes a car enthusiast can have without winding up in the slammer.

Nissan had released a blatant rip off filmed on closed streets in Prague starring a V6 350ZX. It’s far more professional, nowhere near as good. Dial up the engine sound only (I mean, music?) and all you hear is a driver who keeps backing off. So you’re reduced to yelling at him to kick it in the guts like Lelouch did.

The Nissan version is called The Run and costs $20 through dealers. It’s only good if you haven’t seen Rendezvous. Get the real thing from www.pitstop.net.au if you want to keep your money in Australia or www.spiritlevelfilm.com if you want the poms to have it.

Published 2003


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