Behind the scenes of GRIZZLY BEAR;
"I wanted to play with stereotypes & clichés & use them to break them down as the story unfolded."
24 August 2023
Kathryn Lindsay for Refinery 29
Today, Grizzly Bear dropped their first album since 2012, which includes their hit single, "Mourning Sounds." The video for the song, which has a catchy, mellow beat, was released on the August 14, & makes their music even more compelling thanks to its unique narrative.
Starring actress and model Clémence Poésy, the video was directed by artist Beatrice Pegard, and is like nothing you've ever seen before. Come for the Sofia Coppola-esque imagery, stay for the butt bongos.
We had a chance to speak to the director about her vision for the video, and how she used Grizzly Bear's music as a vehicle for female empowerment.
When I watched the video, I immediately thought of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, but the video is actually a bit more playful than that. What were your influences?
It is such an honour for this piece to be compared to Sofia Coppola’s. I think that along with Jane Campion, she is one of the rare directors who can portray women's worlds with such accuracy. Her universe is filled with love, depth and empathy but always with a light comedic touch here and there. She gets it.
The main influences here were actually the '70s classics Three Women by Robert Altman and Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock as well as Jean Cocteau’s 1946 The Beauty and the Beast and of course, the very funny and slightly horny Witches of Eastwick. I do think, though, that Sofia’s DP Harris Savides, had a similar eye to Chuck Rusher’s and Russell Boyd’s.
What tone were you going for?
The song came to me right at a moment when I couldn't help but think about how dangerously cyclic history was and how the past year had eerily felt like we were back in a mix of the 1940s and the 1970s, and I wanted my cinematographer Zoe White to convey this. The Paris choice was also a bit of a message, mixing revolutionary irreverence and naked dudes with chic clothes and derelict chateaux.
The main idea behind the video was to exude something like funny feminism. I wanted to play with stereotypes and clichés and use them to break them down as the story unfolded. I decided to go with pink and blue colour tones and a misty palette so the overall atmosphere would be feminine, surreal, and candid, whilst at the same time approaching serious subjects about motherhood, women in science, etc.
"I was secretly hoping that young girls would watch the video & want to go study environmental science, quantum physics, or anthropology.
This is very much an art video, and you weave in a lot of archival footage. How did you choose what footage to include?
I wanted to portray through archival footage women who were strong and inspiring through times. In a way, I was secretly hoping that young girls would watch the video and want to go study environmental science, quantum physics, or anthropology, or get involved in politics, pick up a skateboard, or get into rally driving. Or simply feel that it is okay to go for something different and to be a bit irreverent.
In many ways, the footage that I collected is very personal. The wedding cake composition was built as a message. It was kind of saying: Come with us, you can be anything you want, find your own freedom and be the new Kalpana Chawla or Simone Veil that the world needs right now.
This was also a very female-dominated set and turned the tables a bit with the male bodies being on display. Was this a conscious choice?
It absolutely was. When I listened to Grizzly’s song, it felt so powerful, beautiful, and fun, and I thought we couldn't have anyone else embody this piece better than women.
The other thing that came to my mind when listening to the drums was: This sounds like butt bongo. In a very good way. I couldn't take it out of my head. It had to be butt bongos.
I was also sick of watching music videos with half-naked, objectified women doing dance moves and just looking pretty. Personally, I always thought, well, I want to see a video where all the chicks are cool and awesome and wearing whatever clothes they want and the guys are used purely for their bodies, so technically we don't even need to see their faces, we will just get them in for their butts. Guy Bourdin had his time — we want male butts too!
It was the same thing with the dance, I didn't want a serious choreography. I wanted girls to have fun, get their dorky out and just feel liberated.
I was also hoping to bring a bit of fun and tongue-in-cheek. I wanted for people to watch it and maybe want to dance, laugh, feel good or less lonely, more hopeful, or maybe just happy, and if someone has felt this way for just 5 minutes while watching it, then I feel that I have accomplished what I was set to do.
Each of the women were very unique, right down to their costumes. What was the process of choosing them, and what do they represent?
They were so amazing and inspiring and we literally laughed all day on set (the male butts helped a bit). With the costumes I wanted my stylist Maud Dupuy to bring anachronistic elements (1980s/1970s mostly) and lots of pink. The pink on the girls’ wardrobe was also a clin d’oeil to the Women’s March in Washington D.C.
Each of the characters embodies women in various fields or phases of life. I wanted women of all ages, back-grounds, & types.
We had a mix of actors, filmmakers, hip-hop dancers, singers, etc.
Making a life decision to run away from your marriage is not easy, it takes a lot of strength and courage. With the 'Not-Bride' character, I wanted Clemence to play the role from the beginning. She has this intelligence, grace, and aura that I have rarely seen. She embodied the persona to perfection. The set turned slightly magic and eerie when she started dancing. I didn’t want to stop shooting.
The disparity of women in science continues to be an issue, especially in academia. Statistically more women earn PhDs but fewer get hired in top academic positions or are less likely to get big research grants. Oumou, the actress in the lab coat, was a little clin d’oeil to the courage of NASA scientists Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, and of course she had very special powers.
Rizlaine was dressed as a racing driver from 1982, partly because I am yet to see women in Formula One, but it was also a little hommage to my best friends Tua and Ria who are amazing racing drivers, amongst other things. The image of motherhood was important to me with Rizlaine. We gave her a halo and a 3rd eye power to give her a religious icon vibe, because any woman who juggles between motherhood and a career is in my eyes not only awesome, but also a true legend.
Rizlaine running through a sea of white men, which we nicknamed Man Landscape, whilst keeping her cool, her power, and her sense of humour throughout also had a little message in it.
The actress whom we have now nicknamed 'rainbow tits' was meant to embody pure love. It was a symbol of unison and a wink to the LGBT community and to all my friends in Australia who are still fighting to legalise same-sex marriage.
The swimmers were meant to represent Olympic chicks having fun in a Grey Gardens’ style change room. It was like they were getting their power on before the big night.
This article was first published by Refinery 29 on 19 August 2017.