Claude Lelouch On Driving Alone

A few weeks ago on the way to Valloire, I heard an interview with author and filmmaker Claude Lelouch on the radio. He talked about how he experiences driving. Unfortunately, Autoroute Info doesn’t seem to provide access to all their short features in podcast form, and it didn’t occur to me to record it with my iPhone at the time, so beyond a few notes I typed in Evernote a little while after the interview, I don’t remember exactly what he said.

There’s something special about being in a car. The view through the windshield commands attention, the unfolding scenery playing in front of the passengers like images on a big screen. Lelouch pointed out another unique aspect of being in a car: it is one of the few places you can be alone and with others at the same time.

He said the car is his favorite office because he can’t be disturbed. He writes his stories there, using a voice-activated dictaphone that is always ready to record. He mentioned a few films like A Man And A Woman, describing them in terms of the starting point, destination and the distance he traveled. He also said he listens to a lot of music while driving and writing (although I’m not sure how that works with the voice-activated dictaphone).

This evokes some of what I remember reading about the making of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and the sensations Refn wanted to convey. Refn and Ryan Gosling apparently spent a lot of time driving around LA together while working on that film.

It also brings to mind Claude LeLouch’s sublime and audacious high-speed drive through Paris, C’était Un Rendezvous. I was first introduced to it through Snow Patrol’s video for Open Your Eyes.

I hope that link isn’t subject to georestrictions. The original is available here in the Internet Archive.

Although Autoroute Info doesn’t have the audio available online, I managed to find some other pieces about Claude Lelouch that also mention this theme.

From 1998, in an article in the French newspaper Libération,

It is also in a car, an Audi these days, that he writes his scenarios. In his office, he falls asleep. Lelouch drives without a destination. For Les Misérables, he traveled between Paris and Rome, recording dialogue spoken out loud with a dictaphone. “From time to time, I stop on the side of the road, I put on a jogging suit and I run.” An athlete’s workout that lends itself to the sportive idea that he makes of his work.

C’est aussi dans une voiture, une Audi ces jours-ci, qu’il écrit ses scénarios. Dans son bureau, il s’endort” [sic] Lelouch roule sans destination. Pour les Misérables, il a parcouru la distance Paris-Rome, enregistrant à voix haute les dialogues sur un dictaphone. «De temps en temps, je m’arrête au bord de la route, j’enfile un jogging et je cours.» Un entraînement d’athlète, convenant à l’idée sportive qu’il se fait de son oeuvre.

In an interview in 2007 at Cannes, where he released Roman de Gare,

One sees here that cars have a large place in your life…
C.L. Because the automobile is my preferred office. I wrote most of my films there while traveling thousands of kilometers, alone. It is there that I am able to concentrate.

On y voit que la voiture tient une grande place dans votre vie…
C.L. : Parce que l’automobile est mon bureau préféré. J’y ai écrit la plupart de mes films en parcourant des milliers de kilomètres, tout seul. C’est là que je parviens à me concentrer.

The interview caught my attention because it so clearly corresponds to my own experience. I don’t drive as much now as when I lived in The States, but I often look forward to it as much for the pleasure of being completely alone with my thoughts as for the enjoyment of being behind the wheel. I’ve often thought of driving as watching a film that I’m making. Unfortunately, while driving, I try to concentrate on the road, so the idea of writing or doing lots of deep thinking there doesn’t work for me.

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