Sandrine begins with the opening of the Paris Metro in 1900. The iconic entrances are the most famous example of art nouveau, but Sandrine’s favourite art nouveau creation is a public lavatory built in 1905.
Next she looks at the birth of the cinema (courtesy of the Lumière Brothers) and re-lives Louis Renault’s derring-do ascent of Montmartre hill in an early motorcar – an event which launched one of France’s greatest industries. Montmartre was also home of an exciting subculture: Bohemianism. Sandrine meets the dancing girls backstage at the Moulin Rouge, learns to dance Josephine Baker style and drinks absinthe at Pablo Picasso’s favourite haunt. She has a date with Olivier Picasso who tries to explain just what his grandfather’s wives made of the funny way he painted them.
This golden age of art and engineering came to an end with the German Occupation in 1940. Sandrine talks to a survivor of the Deportation and goes deep under the ground to a Resistance bunker.
Post-Liberation Paris saw a revival of the Latin Quarter – the medieval heart of the city's intellectual life. Sandrine discusses Existentialism with students, makes a nouvelle vague film, talks pop music with Jane Birkin – wife and muse to bohemian singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg – and visits the setting of the May ’68 Revolution. Finally, Sandrine looks at Paris today - art, fashion and architecture – placing all in context within its long history.
First broadcast: Tuesday 26 Jun 2007 on BBC TWO