Behind the scenes of the new Phoenix music video
"Wow, this is amazing! And smaller than I thought!"
That’s the first thing that everyone working on the project said when entering the main hall of Teatro Bibiena, in the small Italian city of Mantova. This place, both majestic and tiny, is pure magic: a puppet theater where the creative team behind La Blogotheque gathered the French band Phoenix and the people from Mantova together for a unique live shoot.
La Blogothèque and Phoenix share a long history together. We first met in 2009, just after the release of their fifth album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Together, we made a series of videos near the Eiffel Tower, in Paris. Four years later, when their next album Bankrupt! came out, we did this crazy thing where we filmed them with a drone above the gardens of Palace of Versailles. Each time we made a video together, it was sort of an insane challenge, set up in a highly symbolic and historical venue.
So, when we heard about their new album Ti Amo, it seemed obvious that we had to do something equally exciting in a new, crazy place.
The whole album was full of Italian references, and we knew that the band was very, very fond of Italian culture. So we began researching great iconic Italian places. That’s where Google Arts & Culture came in, as the best way to explore Italian heritage from our desk. We quickly selected a few great spots, and fell in love with what we saw on Teatro Bibiena’s page.
Teatro Bibiena is a prestigious theater from the 18th century, initially built for academic purposes, but which quickly proved to have exceptional acoustics: the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart even played there when he was 14 years old. As Phoenix’s Thomas Mars says, “this theater wasn’t made for music. But everything ends up being made for music”.
When you look at photos of it, Teatro Bibiena is impressive. Dozens of boxes on every wall, from the ground to the ceiling, and even behind the stage, with lights between them and frescos in each of them. It looks opulent, prestigious, and huge—almost overwhelming.
So overwhelming that you don’t realize how tiny it actually is until you get inside it. That’s one of the most amazing features of Antonio Galli da Bibiena’s work: being able to have very luxurious and ornamented decor in a small space, without making it stuffy or oppressive. We fell in love with this unique place and immediately knew that it was the perfect location to shoot the video in.
Once we decided on the location, we got to work on the video itself. Colin Solal Cardo, the director, quickly expressed a desire to shoot a continuous shot (our signature) on 35mm film, the old way, which makes beautiful images, but takes out the freedom of shooting over and over again. We also wanted to bring life to the space, so rather than having professional actors, we asked the people from the city hall of Mantova to help us find local people willing to be part of the video.
That’s how we found ourselves with 30 ordinary people from Mantova as our extras, with the theater as our playground for the day.
The idea was to get Thomas to play a tourist guide who imagines himself as a star and abandons his tourist group to go sing onstage, alongside his band mates Christian Mazzalai, Laurent Brancowitz and Deck D’Arcy. He had to go through the central corridor, walk onstage, go through secret paths, and then back onstage, while the whole band played along with him. And we had to get all of this in one shot… quite a challenge! We were holding our breath during each take. Hopefully, the fourth (and last) one was a good one.
Our main challenge was being able to move freely around the space without showing the technical team and equipment, as it’s nearly impossible to hide anything in the theater. Our Sound Director Etienne Pozzo hid microphones all over the place while the band was getting ready and rehearsing. Our Director of Photography Kaname Onoyama hid the lights in the upper boxes. Then Colin, the director, imagined the “choreography” our steadicam operator would do, and told the extras what to do on their side.
In the end, there are many reasons to be proud of this movie. First, and most importantly, the opportunity to respect and highlight the magnificence of the incredible place that is Teatro Bibiena. The second being able to make this movie with the people from Mantova, who were not only our extras, but also helped us on the production, the staging, and more. We really had this feeling of the whole city coming together, and that’s the greatest thing.