Yann Tiersen, Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain

Released: 2001

Le Fabluleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain is the soundtrack to the wonderful film of the same name (in the US, it's called simply Amélie). It's the best movie I've seen this year--a wonderful film about a shy, smart, and beautiful Parisian woman who tries to bring joy to the lives of those around her in strange, often unusual ways, only to stumble when she tries to bring that joy to her own life. It was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who also directed the wonderful The City of Lost Children. Like his earlier film, Amélie is a clever tale full of interesting settings and unusual characters. However, where Chlidren's settings were dank, dark, and morbid, Amélie's settings are light, warm, and happy; where Children's characters all seem to be seeking an escape from their world, Amélie's characters (even when sad or shy or feeling lonely) all seem to embrace the world around them. The tone and feel of both the settings and the characters in Amélie are wonderfully captured in French composer Yann Tiersen's score. Utilizing a wide array of instruments (toy piano, carillon, banjo, mandolins, guitar, harpsichord, vibraphone, accordion, piano, bass guitar, and melodica), Tiersen manages to capture the energy, warmth, and inventiveness of Amélie and her Paris. What makes Tiersen's soundtrack so fun to listen to, I think, is the way he manages to capture the mood of the film, particularly its main character's complicated (both joyful and lonely) personality and her love of Paris (both the city and the people within it). The accordion and carillon are distinctly Parisian instruments, and immediately link the music with that city, but Tiersen uses these instrument not to generate nostalgia for a city, but to heighten the emotional connection between the audience and the film. This suggests that you need to have seen the film first in order to appreciate the music. This is not true. Although each song on this disk was created with a specific scene in mind, having prior knowledge of these scenes is not really important, as it is the emotional effect that is dominant here, and emotions don't need visual cues to make them come alive. For example, I'm not sure exactly where "La Noyée" appears in the film, but what I hear (or, better yet, feel) when I listen to the interplay of accordion and carillon and mandolin in this song is the feeling of racing through the streets of a city (of Paris, probably), envelloped with joy, ready to burst out of your skin with happiness. I don't know where this song actually appears in the film, or whether these emotions are accurate to the scene, but this is what I feel when I hear the song. And that's good enough for any album.

Listen to Sound Samples

Yann Tiersen Web Site

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