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by Laura Kyle

The score to Amelie is all that most of us Americans know of prolific French composer Yann Tiersen’s work, but it’s as fresh and adorable as the film. While Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” makes a cameo in the movie, the Amelie soundtrack is, with the exception of a few vocal pieces, 20 tracks of charming instrumental music – with maybe two or three themes at most, but themes that only get better every time they pop up.

All the songs have French titles, so I hope you don’t mind if I swiftly run through their numbers. I’m not good at working with accents on the computer anyways.

#1 instantly puts you on some street in France, though the distant strings and accordion get loud quite abruptly; it’s a short, energetic piece that almost feels like the middle portion of a bigger song. And I suppose the rest of the soundtrack is that bigger song.

#2 is probably the most unique section of Tiersen’s take on Amelie, delightfully staccato at first and building from a mere accordion and wind instrument to a jovial piece with strings, drums, chimes; almost reminds me of something out of Craig Armstrong’s Love Actually score.

#3 is the first real hint at what the Amelie soundtrack holds in store for listeners, sort of a teaser. And next up after that is the piano’s crack at the already prominent themes of Tiersen’s score, and it’s just subtly beautiful; the first time you get the feeling that Amelie isn’t simply a playful and cheeky movie, but a rather touching one as well. #5 elaborates on that idea some more, but suggesting a little more TBA conflict with a chirpier and more instrumentally varied sound.

Billie Holiday’s “Guilty” takes the #6 spot, and even though it’s an American tune and features nothing resembling an accordion, it fits just perfectly on the soundtrack. #8 starts off quiet and magical and then bolts toward the end, signifying that you and Amelie are taking a turning point in the film.

#9 features a scarce accordion, which is then followed by just a lone piano – the soundtrack's clearly taking a moment of reflection. There’s only a small implication of sadness here; the song keeps finding its major key.

#10 reminds us of Amelie's bouncier beginnings and #11 probably sums up the Amelie soundtrack best. It’s your go-to track if you want to get properly Amelieafied. Its last third is really surprising and exhibits that Tiersen has a lot of versitility as a composer.

#12 is very much a retread of the earlier piano solos, this time with richer chords and a lot more weight on that pedal. #13, or “La Dispute,” is probably one of my favorite tracks. The song is only slightly there at first, and then that piano and melody we’ve grown to love, take over. Almost classical sounding and about as unpretentious as you can get, “La Dispute” is definitely one of the mellower tracks that Amelie has to offer. Frehel croons “Si Tu N'etais Pas La,” another song circa the 1930’s.

#15 is enjoyably French, but is also one of the more ambivalent pieces – ending with the overlap of the plot-important music box. #16, which I absolutely love, is very much like more than a handful of songs from Jan Kaczmarek’s Finding Neverland score, curiously enough.

#17 is a lightly played, solemn piano piece that gets a bit more complicated only to eturn to its opening simplicity and it's contrasted by the brisk “La Banquet.” (That title doesn’t have an accent.) The Amelie soundtrack winds down with the 19th track, another gorgeous piano solo and then ends with the lively "La Valse Des Monstres."

Tiersen’s music is a joy to listen to and it marvelously accommodates the masterpiece that is Amelie (even though some of the music was recorded independently of the film!); in fact, it’s quite a testament to his score that a viewer even notices it, considering the striking visuals and intricate plot it has to compete with.

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originally posted: 11/10/05 19:32:27
last updated: 11/24/05 02:46:48
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