Claude Lelouch’s “A Man and A Woman” and A Fast Ride Through Paris

I’m a big car nut and have loved cars since I was a kid. I thought of the Claude Lelouch short film C’était un rendez-vous (It Was a Date) from 1976 the other day while watching an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage online. Legend about the film has it that Eva Englander, Miss Sweden 1967, made a bet with Lelouch that he couldn’t make it all the way across Paris in less than ten minutes, so he set out early that August morning to prove her wrong. An announcement at the beginning of the film states that there was no faking or speeding up of what you see in the footage. What they didn’t say was that Lelouch was actually driving a big Mercedes 6.9 saloon with Citroën’s ingenious hydro-pneumatic suspension, which kept the front bumper mounted camera rock steady, even over cobblestone streets. Lelouch then dubbed in the sound of his Ferrari 275 GTB.

The Ferrari 275 GTB, launched in the mid-1960’s, was not only Enzo’s favorite Ferrari but Jay Leno’s as well. As a teen, I once took my dad’s Ferrari 275 GTB and went for a nice spin up the Pacific Coast Highway—without permission of course. Many years later I watched Lelouch’s film, shot before daybreak in Paris in August 1976, when most Parisians were away on vacation or asleep, making the streets empty and much safer. I am a sucker for this kind of stuff, having driven my dad’s Ferrari and having once owned a 1963 Citroën DS 19.

Here is Lelouch’s short film. Fasten your seat belts:

Lelouch loved to race cars (he drove the car in the short film above) and his 1966 film Un Homme et Une Femme (A Man and A Woman) employed car racing as a motif. In the film, Jean-Louis Trintignant is a race car driver, heading for Monte Carlo. He was recently widowed, as was his film inamorata, played by Anouk Aimée. The end of the clip below, from near the close the film when the two lovers are reunited, resembles the end of the Rendez-Vous film, and I have no doubt that Claude Lelouch connected the two.

Cars aside, the music by composer Francis Lai is timeless, and the theme (heard in the clip below) is unforgettable. The soundtrack also features Pierre Barouh singing the Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes’ song “Samba Saravah.” Barouh went to Brazil with Marcel Camus to film Black Orpheus (1959) and fell in love with Brazilian music—another reason to buy the soundtrack. He once called himself “the most Brazilian Frenchman in the world.”

Banner image above by Deep silence (Mikaël Restoux) (Own work (Salon RetroMobile, in France)). CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons