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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 21:46 GMT
Composer Tiersen serenades Amelie
Amélie has been a big international hit
By the BBC's Michael Hubbard

The success of the French film Amelie goes on and on. The film from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was last year's most popular cinematic release in France but it was also well-received elsewhere.

It was nominated for a Golden Globe in this year's best foreign language film category and in the UK, it earned seven nods for the Bafta Awards.

They included a nomination for the film's soundtrack album, composed by multi-instrumentalist Yann Tiersen.

Yann Tiersen's soundtrack has garnered the French composer new fans as well as critical acclaim.

A mix of chansons, specially written tracks and material culled from four of Tiersen's previous albums, the completed work has brought Tiersen comparisons with Michael Nyman at his best.

Jann Tiersen
Tiersen: Surprised by success

Jeunet, already famed outside France for Delicatessen and Alien: Resurrection, heard Tiersen's music one day while driving and, legend has it, immediately ordered the entire back catalogue of his work.

He then asked Tiersen to compose the soundtrack for Amélie. The composer recounts: "I was working on my last album L'Absente and I told him I didn't have a lot of time.

"He started to search for material from my previous albums, then I added some new tracks." The finished result featured instruments as diverse as toy piano and typewriter.

Tiersen explains how he came to complete the soundtrack and choose appropriate instruments.

"For me it is like a game. Sometimes I can have a period where I have a favourite instrument. I like vibes just now, for example. It is a bit of instinct. I try to see what fits."

The success of Amelie was a surprise to Tiersen. He says: "Even in France we are surprised when our work becomes successful. When you work on a project you just think about it rather than commercial success."


The Amelie soundtrack missed out on a Golden Globe nomination, but he is clearly not bothered.

"I don't like this kind of ceremony," he says. "People from the same universe deciding to congratulate themselves is not such a good idea. It reminds me of being in school."

Neil Hannon
Neil Hannon: Considers Tiersen as his collaborator of choice

Tiersen has been favourably compared with Michael Nyman, best known for his score for the Jane Campion film The Piano.

Being called "the Gallic Michael Nyman" hasn't hurt him, but he'd rather people did not make such statements.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet previously directed Alien 4
Jeunet: Ordered Tiersen's entire back catalogue

"I like the early works of Michael Nyman," he says, "and the way to approach classical matter with another energy, closer to a rock band. But I don't think our music is very close."

His name check of musical influences features some rather more surprising artists.

In the early 1980s as a teenager he was influenced by the post-punk culture of bands like The Stooges and Joy Division.

"I like the energy of their recordings and their approach to music," he says. "It is very instinctive. They played music without care for technique and gleaned pleasure from it."

Tiersen himself is noted for cutting across musical genres. But he says: "It is not my job to define my music. To keep the enthusiasm for creating, an artist should not care about genres."

See also:

17 Sep 01 | Film
Amelie wins at low-key Toronto
05 Oct 01 | Oscars 2002
Spellbinding Amelie
22 Jan 02 | Film
Amelie charms US box office
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