C’était un rendez-vous avec Charles Leclerc

Those of us of a certain age may remember a certain urban myth, usually from friends with older brothers, of a lunatic driver doing 150mph through Paris in a Ferrari. Such tales were almost always embellished to such a degree that 150mph became 200mph, and the driver became an actual F1 driver – Jacky Ickx or Jacques Laffite, according to legend. Corrr! Such thoughts disappeared until my university housemate, closely related to an actual (Gentleman) Le Mans driver, casually asked me whether I’d seen C’était un rendez-vous? I hadn’t, and I needed to!

Like all the best films (i.e. Withnail & I) there is no plot. All we get is a flat-out drive through an empty 1970’s Paris to rendezvous with an unfeasibly pretty girl. With the sun rising over the Arc du Triomphe, and the howling Ferrari 275 GTB providing the soundtrack, this is surely one of the greatest driving films created. And at a mere 8 minutes long, you won’t get told off for tying up the telly all evening.

Alas the truth is a little further from the myth. While a Ferrari 275GTB did provide the soundtrack, the car used was a Mercedes 450SEL. And the driver was neither Mssrs Ickx or Laffite, but filmmaker Claude Lelouch. Fortunately, the reality does not detract from what is an iconic piece of automotive cinema.  Pigeons become lunch, red-lights are ignored, and one-way streets are driven two-way. So we’re clear, we do not recommend such behaviour. But nor do we suggest you shouldn’t enjoy the film, you should! If you haven’t seen it, see it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJYOMFayruw

So why are we discussing this now? Well, with many city streets being more sparsely populated than normal, a number of others have been inspired to recreate the original. Simon Kidston has just filmed a 5 minute blast through Rome, C’était une urgence. The film is visually stunning, with the Colosseum lit against the day/night dusk sky, and the obviously improved camera quality making full-screen viewing a must. The thing that stands out most is the speed difference compared to the original. We aren’t told what car is used, but compared to a 1970’s Merc things have moved on a lot. Watch the film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vhPQ_NRNLY

So what does this have to do with Charles Leclerc? Well, he and Claude Lelouch are about to do the same through Monaco on Sunday. Watch this space!