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Paris: City Of Dreams: Three-Part Series Overview

Airs Thursdays, August 19 - September 2, 2010 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Basilica of Sacre Coeur de Montmartre, taken on a clear day in late February 2008

Few cities boast the romantic allure of Paris: its charm, its energy, its style. Sandrine Voillet reveals how Paris battled through turmoil and trauma to become the city of dreams – the capital of the world in all but name, in this BBC/OU series.

Art historian Sandrine Voillet in Paris

Above: Art historian Sandrine Voillet in Paris

In the first episode, "City Of Dreams," Sandrine uncovers a Paris very rarely explored, from the Louvre to a magical fairy tale park which is one of Paris’s best kept secrets. She delves deep into the subterranean labyrinth of the city sewers, heads for a very special restaurant famed for its discreet boudoir lounges and meets one of France’s great photographers, Willy Ronis. She also reveals why two of Paris’ s most photographed landmarks, the Basilica of Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower, were hated when they were first built, but went on to become the great icons of the most beautiful city in the world.

Eiffel Tower, seen from the ''champ de Mars'' Paris, France, 2009
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Above: Eiffel Tower, seen from the ''champ de Mars'' Paris, France, 2009

In the next episode, "Blood And Chocolate," Sandrine traces the growth of Paris from its origins on a small island in the middle of the River Seine to the world capital of revolution, revealing a city of haves and have nots in an era of the Salon, theatre and chocolate, which famously and bloodily divided a nation. She talks to top fashion designer, Christian Lacroix, about his inspiration from the past and joins a demonstration where she meets a controversial rap band. She also visits the eerie Catacombs, where human bones are stacked high, and the beautiful Basilica of Saint Denis in search of the remains of the victims of the revolution – a revolution that set Paris on course to becoming the world’s first truly modern city.

In the final episode, "Bohemian Rhapsody," Sandrine takes a look beyond the glittering surface of Paris at the underground worlds and movements that defined the city in the 20th Century. She meets the can-can girls at the Moulin Rouge and drinks absinthe at Pablo Picasso’s favorite haunt. She also meets up with Olivier Picasso who tries to explain just what his grandfather’s wives made of the way he painted them. Post-Liberation Paris saw a revival of the Quartier Latin – the medieval heart of the university – and Sandrine discusses Existentialism with students, makes a nouvelle vague film, talks pop music with Jane Birkin, and visits the setting of the May ‘68 Revolution.

Video

Video Excerpt: Paris: City Of Dreams

Above: "Paris: City Of Dreams" - We first meet Sandrine Voillet in the Louvre, the world's most famous museum of art and the place where she studied the history of art. Before it was a museum, the Louvre was a splendid palace. That all changed with the French Revolution of 1789, and that is when Sandrine begins her story of Paris.

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