Sound And Vision: Quentin Dupieux

Contributing Writer; The Netherlands
Sound And Vision: Quentin Dupieux

In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors. This week we look at several of Quentin Dupieux's music videos.

Quentin Dupieux is infamous for his offbeat French surrealist films, since his breakthrough film Rubber, which was his third feature. Dupieux started directing as a teen almost at the same time he started a career as a musician. First he started soundtracking his own short films. This was after he made a short using existing music, only to find out when trying to sell it to distributors that he needed to own the rights to the tracks. Under the moniker Mr. Oizo he became a well known trailblazer in the electronic music scene. Not one to rest on his laurels, he continued filmmaking for his own tracks, and for peers like Laurent Garnier (the music video for Flashback), the famous french producer/ artist who gave Dupieux his first big break.

In one of his earlier music videos, for the track M-Seq, Dupieux created a character that would become emblematic for his work as an electronic artist. A floppy-eared yellow dog puppet named Stephané, who loved to head-bang. A few months later the dog lost his ears, got a slight make-over and became the masthead of a Levi's campaign directed and scored by Dupieux: Flat Eric was born. Eric, as that name was deemed more international. For those who didn't live in Europe in the nineties it can't be understated how big Flat Eric was here. At a fairground claw machine, I once tried to win a knock off Flat Eric puppet. If you made it into a claw machine, you know you had a cultural impact.

Flat Eric his own big hit with Mr. Oizo's Flat Beat (which was first featured in the Levi's campaign), also directed by Dupieux (see below). It's a very simple video, in which Flat Eric headbangs to the track while holding his office phone to the boombox, and smokes a sausage, literally. The latter is the sort of gloriously dumb conceptual wordplay Dupieux loves to feature in his increasingly absurdist movies.

Dupieux tried to escape the shadow of Flat Eric for a while. He made several off-kilter music videos for himself and others; featuring roided-up worms doing dog races; his valley girl alter ego making the album Lambs Anger using pieces of lettuce as inspiration; a bro character sightseeing; and a man in a deerskin jacket living isolated in the mountains. The costume in the last music video strikes some resemblances to the central MacGuffin in his later horror comedy Deerskin.

Still, Flat Eric, while lying dormant, proved too big to ignore. He returned in the teaser short film Where's The Money George (also below), playing opposite Pharrell Williams as a police officer. This was around the same time that Dupieux started to really hit it big as a director after Rubber and Wrong. The short only teases the concept of music, not featuring any actual track, but featuring a very strong soundscape. Some time later he played chess with William Fichtner as a promotion for his EP Stade 3 (also below).

The last time Dupieux featured Flat Eric in any of his works was around 2015/2016. For the album All Wet, which features a 8-bit Flat Eric as the cover art, he made a promotional video where Flat Eric presents all the album tracks while headbanging (also below). The short features several other absurdist images, a move away from Flat Eric as a character. Also around the same time a short movie was made for Red Bull's Paris Now series. Being Flat (the final piece below) features actor Steve Little being frustrated with the character of Flat Eric. "I don't care. This yellow character who doesn't talk. It's so stupid. It's driving me nuts." Is this Dupieux speaking out about his own character overshadowing him? It might as well be.

Flat Eric returned in several music videos including the music video for Hand in the Fire (featuring Charli XCX) and Viandes Légumes Véhicules. But Dupieux passed the torch. Those music videos were directed by an animator and director working under the name Meat Dept. Take that as you will. While Mr. Oizo still uses Flat Eric as his mascot, Quentin Dupieux has moved on to direct features like Incredible But True, Smoking Causes Coughing, Yannick and Daaaaaalí! in the last two years alone. He might be too busy to be concerned about the yellow puppet. Still, Flat Eric might stick around for eternity, like the insidious earworm that birthed him. Let's all headbang one more time in his honor.

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