If anything is going to get Yann Tiersen wider attention then it is this soundtrack to the film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and he deserves every bit of it. Tiersen's music is not immediately recognisable as conventional film music but it is great in the context of this film, known as "Le Fabuleux Destin D'Amelie Poulain" in the Original French, or simply Amelie in the English speaking world where it is presented with subtitles, but don't let that put you off - the movie is easily followed and the subtitles don't detract from its charm at all. Jeunet discovered the composer Tiersen when a friend was playing one of his albums in the car. You can easily imagine Tiersen's music accompanying other films and we hope that other directors are looking in his direction at the moment.
This particular movie has lots of character and lots of heart. The casting and direction are suberb and the music is an essential ingredient in the mix. All tracks are by Tiersen except 7 (an oldie in English) and 14 (an oldie in French). Some of them are existing tracks from Tiersen's albums, and some are composed especially for the film. Amelie is a likeable girl who develops an ambition to help others. The question is whether she is willing to face her own problems. It sounds like a serious story, but the movie has a light touch with a lot of humour. "Amelie's Waltz" is the main character's theme, provided in 3 different versions and central to the movie. The first version is presented in a typical Tiersen arrangement with accordians prominent. This instrument features prominently throughout the soundtrack giving a distinctly French feel to the film. As with Amelie's theme, waltzes also feature throughout the soundtrack and give a merry-go-round impression, as though the characters are experiencing the whirlwind of life.
J'y suis jamais alle is taken from the album "Rue des Cascades" and introduces French accordians from the outset. Les Jours Tristes is listed as "instrumental", this designation implying that the track was recorded live by an ensemble rather than tracks played and layered by Tiersen himself. The sleeve notes mention that a vocal version of this is available on Tiersen's latest album "L'Absente". We are then introduced for the first time to La Valse d'Amelie with its typical Mediterranean instrumentation. Comptine d'un autre ete: l'Apres Midi played on piano has simple accompaniment patterns in typical moody minimalist style. La Noyee from "Le Phare" starts with accordians and barely perceptible percussion, then strings enter when it turns into 3/4 time getting gradually more intense. L'autre Valse d'Amelie is a laid-back bittersweet accordian waltz with celeste-like chimes. Guilty is a romantic old song from 1931, sung in English and complete with original "old-record" sound and minor scratches. This is the first of two oldies on the soundtrack and serves to emphasise the timeless quality of the movie, as though set several decades ago despite containing modern cars and gadgets like mobile phones.
A Quai is a track with plenty of movement, also taken from "L'Absente" album. Note that Le Moulin isn't "Rouge" but a hestitant tune, more reflective in character and tinged with sadness, on solo accordian then piano. Pas si Simple is taken from "Rue des Cascades", featuring a clicking typewriter sound which brings in music from a distance with mandolins leading the way. La Valse d'Amelie (orchestral version) features orchestration just as indiosyncratic as Tiersen's other arrangements. La Valse des Vieux Os is another accordian waltz, which alternates a lyrical duet with a dancing chorus. La Dispute is a melancholy waltz on accordian and piano. Although an existing track taken from "Le Phare" album, it sits perfectly within the part of the movie where there is a stoney silence between characters. We then have another timeless old "crackly" song from 1934, this time in French: Si Tu n'etais pas La (Frehel).
Another waltz follows from "Rue des Cascades" called Soir de Fete with hand-claps, mandolin, accordian and strange low whistle. The music fades leaving a tinkling music-box tune which becomes recognisable as "zip-a-dee-doo-dah" from the Disney film "Song of the South". Keeping up the tinkling sound and waltzing style is La Redecouverte. Sur le Fil from "Le Phare" is an interesting reflective piece for piano, even Chopinesque at times. Then Le Banquet fades in, a lively waltz for accordians. La Valse d'Amelie (piano version) follows, slow and quiet to begin with, gaining expansive confidence when it reaches 3/4 time with arpeggios and rippling accompaniment, returning by the end to the original tentative mood. La Valse des Monstres is the title track from the album of the same name and yet another accordian waltz. While some tracks display emotions using devises like rubato, this one is straight and detached, though not quite demonic as implied by the title.
The music of the soundtrack does much to enhance the movie, the mood moving on a spectrum between melancholy and carefree, but even the sadder emotions are tinged with a kind of Gallic acceptance, "C'est La Vie!". The soundtrack to Amelie is highly recommended as something quite original in the world of movie soundtracks, though it is hoped that we haven't heard the last of Yann Tiersen. The CD can be found on Amazon.com in the US.
The Sheet Music for Amelie has been very popular, but it sold out very quickly leaving many fans disappointed. But the sheet music has now been reprinted and is listed in the catalogues of a number of stores. You should try Di-Arezzo.com and MusicRoom.com. The full title of the book is "Six pièces pour Piano volume 2 - Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain" and it consists of the following pieces: "Comptine d'un autre ete: l'apres-midi", "Le moulin", "La Dispute", "Sur le fil", "La valse d'Amelie" and "Comptine d'ete no.2". If you missed the original publication, now's your chance - highly recommended. If you are intrigued by Tiersen's music and play the piano, we guaranteed you'll be bowled over by these arrangements, and the sheer economy of ideas used to create complex moods.