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Best soundtrack of 2001
on March 10, 2002
Every year there ends up being one or two original movie scores that really blow me away. In 1999, the soundtrack to the musical South Park movie was the bomb, and there was also Thomas Newman's American Beauty score. In 2000 there was the dark and ambient Virgin Suicides score by Air and the horrifying Requiem For a Dream music by Clint Mansell. For 2001, Yann Tiersen's Amelie score takes the cake. The movie, if you don't know, is about a quirky girl who lives in Paris. She cultivates a fine taste for the smaller pleasues in life. She comes across a box in her apartment left by a boy 40 years ago, sets out to return it to him, and then discovers that it's her life's calling to brighten people's days. The score is somewhere between Nino Rota's Amarcord and The Godfather music. The mood is fun, tinged with sadness. It's like carnival music with a Fellini funeral procession, and a touch of sheer magic thrown in for good measure.
I was surprised to find out that not all of this music was written specifically for Amelie. Yann Tiersen is a guy who, apparently, records by himself and is a veritable Einstein of musical instruments. He plays accordion, guitar, bass, banjo, piano, harpsicord, mandolin, vibraphone, and toy piano among other things. The dominant instruments are accordion and piano, for your information. Apparently he's recorded a bunch of albums already, and some of his old tunes are on here, although you wouldn't be able to pick out the old from the new, except for the fact that some of Amelie songs have the recognizable Amelie "valse," or "waltz," in them.
This is the perfect mix of European classical music and experimentalism. A number of the songs are waltzes and would fit in fine with a period film. This compliments the movie because Amelie herself looks like an old movie star put into a post-modern film. The music is the same way. "Pas Si Simple" starts with a typewriter clicking and clacking and that becomes the percussion of another waltz. The orchestral version of "La Valse D'Amelie" is complimented by the toy piano to childishly magical effect. "Soir De Fete" sticks out from the accordion and piano-dominated songs with its mandolins and handclaps, and it ends with a music box playing "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah." It's a strangely unnerving song. The seven-minute "Sur Le Fil" features some really dextrous violin work, again, done by Tiersen. Overall, it will make you feel like you've been to Paris, seen a circus and a funeral procession, walked around a bit, and then come back. And it will make your day much better.