CitroŽn Traction Avants
in Northern California

Menlo Park, California

 

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Traction Spotting at the Movies
(links are to Amazon.com, except where noted)


The A list: significant Traction exposure

Rififi (1954)
(DVD 1:55)
Directed by Jules Dassin. Famous heist movie. Truly film noir:  thank god it's a white Traction; at least you can see it if little else in this study in dark shadows.

 

To Catch a Thief (1955)  
(DVD 1:43)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Police in a Traction chase Cary Grant and Grace Kelly on the Corniche overlooking Monaco. A road-crossing chicken confronts the Traction and, sadly, it's the Traction that blinks.
Shoot the Piano Player (1960)
(DVD 1:24)
(Tirez sur le Pianiste)
Directed by FranÁois Truffaut, starring Charles Aznavour.
The Traction enters at about 1:03 and is especially beautiful in the snow.
From Russia with Love (1963) 
(DVD 2:05)
The second James Bond movie, thought by many to be the best. The first half of the movie is set in Istanbul (after a brief Venetian intro) where Bond is followed around by Bulgarian/Russian agents in a Traction. Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Lotte Lenya and Robert Shaw.
Is Paris Burning? (1968)
(DVD 2:53)

Directed by Rene Clement with screenplay by Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola, based on the book by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.
Will the Nazis torch Paris as they are driven out of the city? How hard should the competing Resistance factions push without provoking a nasty reaction? Black & white film with many Tractions and even a half Traction. Notable TAs include the Familial of the Swedish consul (Orson Welles), whose entire roof is draped with the Swedish flag, and, near the beginning, the rear half of a Traction, converted to a horse cart in a Paris short of essense.
The Conformist (1969)
(DVD 1:48)
Adapted by Bernardo Bertolucci from the Alberto Moravia novel, this brilliantly filmed story concerns a young fascist (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who demonstrates his loyalty by betraying his old professor. It also features Dominique Sanda. And a Traction that appears early and then intermittently throughout the movie, sometimes in snow.
Le Cerveau (1969)
(DVD)
Arthur and Anatole are two little robbers. They want to rob money, money that will travel in a special train from Paris to Bruxelles. They don't know that other people have planned to do the same thing. A Paris Taxi Traction plays a starring role.
Jean-Paul Belmondo and David Niven.
Les Violons du Bal (1974)  
(VHS: 1:45)

Directed by Michel Drach with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Marie-Josee Nat (the director's wife). Narratively skillful recollection of the Nazi occupation and the plight of the director's secular Jewish family, from the perspective of the 1970s. They make their evacuation from Paris in a black Traction with white wings, Nazis strafing from above (about 4 mins. starting at 0:11, with a very brief reappearance at 0:20). A bonus is the wry commentary on the film industry.
Une Femme ŗ Sa FenÍtre (1977)
(link to BoÓte Noire in Montrťal)
(VHS 1:50)
(A Woman at her Window)
Directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre with Romy Schneider, Phillipe Noiret and Victor Lanoux.
Sex and politics in Greece in the 1930s with flash-forwards to France during the war. An ugly Packard and a terrific white Cord dominate the Greek sections, but the scenes in France feature a Traction (for a few minutes at 0:47 and briefly at 1:38), including that most appealing of combinations, a Traction and snow.
Diva (1982)
(DVD)
Directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix with Wilheminia Wiggins Fernandez.
The Traction enters at about 1:13 and suffers a tragic fate. This film is especially notable for CitroŽn enthusiasts as its climactic scene, the negotiation between villain and hero, was filmed in the abandoned CitroŽn factory in southwest Paris at the Quai de Javel; the cavernous building has since been razed.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
(DVD 2:06)
The main Traction sequence begins at ~1:18 when Harrison Ford and Sean Connery, fleeing Nazi aircraft, steal a goatherd's chopped cream and black Traction coupe. They survive the plane that spectacularly follows them into a tunnel, but then get stuck in a crater in the road created by a Nazi bomb dropped just in front of the car. For the attentive there are two additional CitroŽn episodes. Two Tractions are parked in front of the Berlin airport, one of them cream and black and possibly the same car that appears in the later scene after getting chopped. (This scene was filmed on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. The other, all black Traction is owned by Dave and Linda Allen of Santa Rosa, California.) Near the end of the film there is a Nazi CitroŽn army truck that quite literally gets blown away from the contested tank containing Connery and Denholm Elliott.
Lucie Aubrac (1999)
(DVD)
Another French Resistance film, this one set in Lyons, with squads of Tractions, some occupied by Vichy police and some by members of the Resistance, flitting about town. There is one notable scene in which the plot turns on the inability of a Resistance driver to get his TA started. All Tractions, more-or-less all the time.
The Quiet American (2002)  
(DVD: 1:41)
Film of the Graham Greene novel, set in Vietnam at the time of the French Indochina war and starring Michael Caine as the British journalist/narrator. Caine drives a Traction, filmed most spectacularly against a sunset in a threatening no-man's land.

 

The B list: incidental or fleeting exposure

The Red Balloon (1956)
(DVD 0:34)
Directed by Albert Lamorisse and starring his son Pascal.
Tractions seen intermittently throughout.
Charade (1963) 
(DVD 1:53)
Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in Stanley Donan's great romantic comedy cum thriller set in Paris. The Traction sighting is fleeting but frontal and close up with the double chevron spread over much of the screen. Hepburn and Grant also take a ride in a nice DS taxi.
The Great Escape (1963)
(DVD)
A Traction is seen briefly at the end, the vehicle for a drive-by assassination of three Nazi generals sitting in a roadside cafe. James Coburn is spirited out of the way by a timely phone call.
The Sound of Music (1965)
(DVD 2:54)
After nearly three hours of treacle, the von Trapp family make their escape from the convent in the caretaker's Traction; the Nazis try to follow but the sly nuns have pulled their distributor caps and wires. (On the SAP, the Traction is described as a "dusty old car".)
Buffet Froid (1979)  
(DVD 1:35)
Bertrand Blier's send up of French cinematic obsession with anomie and crime. At the end, Carole Bouquet, the drop-dead (too true) gorgeous girlfriend in real life of Gerard Depardieu (the male lead) is driving a very nice black 15-6 Traction. The philosophical police inspector, who believes that murderers are better on the outside than in prison, where they corrupt the innocent, is played by the director's father. He nearly suffers a death-by-Brahms, but instead empties his revolver into the string players.
Indochine (1992)
(DVD 2:35)
Catherine Deneuve plays a French rubber plantation owner in Vietnam in the 1930s. A romantic critique of colonialism notable for beautiful scenery and several pre-Traction CitroŽns: Deneuve is chauffeured in a red & black AC6/C6 (1928-1931) and indeed has a troubled love scene in the back seat. There are also a 10HP Type A (1919-1921; CitroŽn's first model) and a C4G cabriolet (1931-1932). A Traction appears only for a couple of seconds at the end, parked in front of the Geneva hotel where the French and the Vietnamese are negotiating in 1955.
Toto the Hero (1992)  
(VHS: 1:30)
Five seconds in a dream/fantasy sequence. Don't blink.
The Buena Vista Social Club (1999)
(DVD)
The famous film, directed by Wim Wenders, featuring a group of aged Cuban musicians, regathered in the colorful decrepitude of modern Havana. It turned them into international stars. Excellent movie and music, introduced by 5 seconds of a Traction driving along the Havana waterfront.

 

A good North American source for French movies, with or without Tractions, is BoÓte Noire in Montrťal.

Please help expand this list by submitting the names of other movies with Traction exposure.

 

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