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Review by Brad Green:

Everyone has a romantic weakness. A sight, smell or sound that dissolves the most hardboiled sense of pragmatism and ushers in the dreamer. Suddenly the world is painted in intriguing hues, and Routine shrugs off her quotidian coat to reveal all manner of secrets. For some, this strange intoxication is triggered by a link with childhood memory, for others it is an arousal of imagination. I have not yet visited Paris, but my own irresistible catalysts are the Continental melodies of the cafe accordion, the street ensemble and the salon piano. They speak to me not of a perfect world, but a world full of magic, whimsy and infinite potential.

If I gush, excusez-moi síil vous plait, it is the fault of composer and multi-instrumentalist Yann Tiersen. His score for Amelie summons up irresistible waves of an all too rare quality: cheerful nostalgia. All nostalgia is tinged bitter-sweet, but is by nature more inclined to melancholy than the honeyed, jaunty phrases of this soundtrack. The result would be too buoyant for director Jean-Pierre Jeunetís trademark grotesquery, but it is perfect for a film which finds the auteur strolling on the sunnier side of quirky observation.

Yet the same nuances that stamp every Jeunet vision are present in these tunes. There is the hint of the carnival and the kooky that lurks around the corner of reality, mostly hidden, except from the wry angle of Jeunetís lens Ė or Tiersenís ear. In their very effervescence, Tiersenís compositions bubble with the laughter of the harlequin and troubadour. The style is in no way forced; a number of tracks borrowed from his previous albums blend seamlessly with the new material. A lightly swinging croon and a Piaf-style cabaret song, both of the 1930s (and the only music on the CD for which Teirsen is not responsible), sway harmoniously in between.

The lucidity of Tiersenís music is not surprising; he plays each and every instrument himself. Considering these number almost a dozen, and range from piano and banjo to accordion and carillon, it is a talent which invites bouquets. More importantly, the music is of a style where the synergy of composer as ubiquitous performer is paramount. The one-man ensemble dabs on each instrumental tone like a pointillist dot, and the overall sound glows like a Seurat masterpiece. Not that the instrumentation is ever thick. There are moments of solo piano, pure and dignified, and a solo accordion passage where you can hear the hands on the keys and almost feel the breeze in the bellows.

Even when the interplay of instrumentation is at its most sublime, the enchantment radiates from the gentle contrasts and confluences within intimate groupings. You cannot crowd a symphony into a Parisian cafť, and Tiersen ensures his music breathes. It is the breath of joie de vivre.

Published January 17, 2002

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TITLE: Amelie

ID: 7243 81123928


MUSIC BY: Yann Tiersen



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