Two years ago, we posted about C’etait un Rendezvous, a short movie shot in 1976 showing a supposedly breath-taking drive through Paris in the early morning. We said this:
The entire film is shot from the bumper of the Ferrari (a 275 GTB) as it jams through the streets of Paris in real time. The film is nine minutes long, and was shot early one morning, without any permits, on streets open to the public. While it’s great fun to watch, it was irresponsible as hell to film — the driver runs red lights, drives the wrong way up one-way streets, etc.
I was looking through the post again today, and followed up with some other resources, and it’s suddenly looking like the “drive like hell” aspects of the movie were misleading.
It’s come to light in the last few years, apparently, that the movie was not shot from the bumper of a Ferrari, but instead from the bumper of a relatively sedate Mercedes-Benz 450SEL (here’s a picture of the director and the camera rig, in fact).
Consequently, this means the soundtrack is entirely fake — the sounds of the car in the movie ain’t no Mercedes. Additionally, the sound of the car in the movie is a manual transmission with at least five gears, while the Mercedes has only three gears (and it’s an automatic).
With this in mind, I watched the movie again, and I determined that the car in the film really wasn’t going that fast. The sound of the engine just makes it seem like it’s going fast. If you watch the movie with the sound off, the visual is of a car making a fairly sedate drive, not the breakneck drive we were led to believe.
The movie is on YouTube: listen for yourself.
There are scenes where the sound of the film makes you think the guy is well over 100 m.p.h., but he takes a normal amount of time to pass other cars. So either everyone was going over 100 m.p.h., or he was going much slower.
So this brings us back to the entire reason I posted about the film in the first place — the physics analysis:
[…] the bottom line is that the guy was absolutely flying at some points in the trip. For example —
At second #171, the driver passed a landmark that was 5,190 meters into his trip. Eighteen seconds later (second #189), the driver passed a landmark that was 6,290 meters into his trip. This means he traveled 1,100 meters in 18 seconds, or 61 meters per second. That’s almost 140 m.p.h.
The math in there is correct (I just re-checked it), but I’m wondering if the analysis — the positioning of the landmarks — is wrong. These two notes appear on the IMDb trivia page:
According to recent claims by Claude Lelouch, he was driving his own Mercedes in the film, and later dubbed over the sound of a Ferrari 275GTB to give the impression of much higher speeds. Calculations made by several independent groups using the film show that the car never exceeds 140 km/h (85 mph), which seems to lend credence to his recent comments.
[…] Until recently, there was no confirmation of who was driving or what car he was driving. Over the years, various sources claimed an F1 driver was at the wheel of a Le Mans Matra 675, Ferrari 275 GTB, or an Alpine A110. However, Claude Lelouch confirmed on his official website in March 2006 that he was driving, and it was a 6.9 litre Mercedes.
I feel a little silly about this — I was totally duped by nothing but a soundtrack, and perhaps the perspective of the camera (anything skimming the ground like that just naturally seems faster). Regardless, it’s a fascinating look at how one sense can fool another. What my eyes were seeing was completely over-ridden by what my ears were hearing.