Memory Lane: Damien Chazelle's Poignant Trek for Hennessy

There's greatness in this gorgeous voyage

Hennessy X.O and DDB Paris have unfurled the third and final installment of their "Odyssey" saga, directed by Oscar nominee Damien Chazelle, best known for the films Whiplash and La La Land.

Scored by Justin Hurwitz, the long-form spot, "Life Is the Greatest Odyssey," is subtle but gripping, as you'd expect, and follows a musician across a dimension of dreams and memories. He first encounters a giant fallen replica of his own head, cast in stone. He gazes upon this outsized version of his own countenance, then treks on amid a sea of people (a very  Vanilla Sky vibe). He's the god of these lands, cracking open just enough for us to wander with him awhile.

We meander through cities. Their distinguishing sounds and characteristics—red phone booths, yellow cabs—set the mood without unnecessary exposition.

Soon, our sojourner finds himself captivated by a writer in a bar. After shy smiles, he summons the will to approach her, accidentally splashing a few drops of Hennessy cognac on her (remarkably resilient) ink. They share a laugh ... then it's not cities we're traversing, but the stages of a relationship. Unlike the cityscapes, we're kept outside the couple's intimacy, literally beyond a window, looking in ... and our musician, the host of this reverie, is outside with us, too.

A candlelit procession comes next, casting amber highlights into the night. Pan out, and we’re pulling away from a tumbler of Hennessy X.O in our protagonist's hand. He's at home. His love draped across his lap, reading, her own glass on the table. On the wall are the relics of their saga, including her still-stained writing paper.

A tear rolls down his cheek.

"Each drop is an odyssey," the ad ends.

A dedicated subsite features a short interview with Chazelle, who observes that "the smallest thing can trigger an entire lifetime, an entire epic journey of thoughts and memories." There's a rightness to tying this spooling-out of memory to the sensory experience of enjoying your favorite drink. Sometimes, a sip helps you feel at home in strange places. Other times, when it's a cozy nightcap at home with someone you love, you're brought back to those places, overwhelmed by longing for a story still unfolding.

“My hope would be that where we’ve gone through and where we land at the end prompts an audience member to reflect on their own life, reflect on their own memories," Chazelle says.

Certainly we're left reflecting on the nature of memory. We were happy to get lost on someone else's road for awhile ... probably the highest praise one can offer a seven-minute piece of branded content.

"Life Is the Greatest Odyssey" follows two previous odyssey-themed films. In 2019, Ridley Scott explored seven tasting notes through seven worlds—a very Ridley-esque take that felt like an elaboration on Nicolas Winding Refn's 2016 approach on those tasting notes, using lush visuals and sound.

Having experienced them all, Chazelle's film is by far our favorite.

DDB Paris creative director Alexander Kalchev says the ad is the result of a three-year process, and calls it an homage to the greatness in a human life. "X.O takes the form of Proust’s madeleine, taking us on a multi-sensorial journey through the past, present and future,” he says. “Telling this story took hundreds of extras, handmade sets designed by the wonderful Florencia Martin, and the poetic beauty of Damien Chazelle’s delicate direction. It’s been an honor and privilege to work on this film and continue building the Hennessy X.O brand.”

It was shot in Prague.


Campaign Credits 
‘Life Is the Greatest Odyssey’ print and video campaign for Hennessy. 

Hennessy Maison: 
Hennessy Global CMO: Julie Nollet  
Hennessy X.O Brand Director: Emmy Aoun Gestin 
Director: Damien Chazelle 
Executive producers: Rebecca Skinner, Michelle Ross & Greg Panteix
Producers: William Green & Bertille Muguet 
DOP: Linus Sandgren 
1st AD: Michael Kahn 
Production Designer: Florencia Martin
Costume designer: Emmanuelle Youchnovksi  
Make-up: Arturo Balseiro Santos 
Photographers: Christopher Anderson & Romain Laprade  
Behind the scenes pictures and movie: Jacqueline de Gorter 
Production co: UNIT+SOFA 
Executive Producer: Filip Hedjuk 
Line Producer: Tereza Kalova 
Local Production designer: Henri Boraros  
Post Production: The Mill 
Executive Creative Director: Franck Lambertz
Head of executive: Lionel Juglair 
Post producer: Bastien Adam
Editor director’s cut: Shane Reid 
Editor: Sophie Reine 
Color grading: Matt Wallach @ Company3
Music Production: 
Music composer: Justin Hurwitz 
Sound production company: Justin Hurwitz & Barking Owl
Agency: DDB Paris  
Chief creative officer: Alexander Kalchev  
Creative directors: Alexis Benbehe & Pierre Mathonat  
Art directors: Mathieu Masse, Perrine Tixier, Charline Boisdon  
Producer & Art Buyer: Quentin Moenne-Loccoz 
Post producer: Jerôme Deplatière  
Managing director: Xavier Mendiola 
Business director: Meryl Martin  
Account director: Floriane Portaspana 
Account executive: Marie Melet & Clarisse Comte  

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Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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