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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF THE BEST OF THE LAST DECADE
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might have revealed a glimmer of intelligence amid the cheap glitter had it awarded Mike Leigh and Jim Broadbent the Oscars they deserved (it won for costume design and makeup), instead of showering accolades on the excellent but far over-rated American Beauty.
The only reason I can see for other reviewers describing...
Published on Jan. 30 2004 by Jerry Engelbach

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings--wonderful music, no plot!!!
What is there to say about Topsy-Turvy, a sometimes delightful, often strenuous, musical period drama? Topsy-Turvy catches Gilbert and Sullivan in the midst of their successful careers. Having already scored numerous hits(The Pirates of Penzance, Sorcerer, and HMS Pinafore to name a few), they've reached a creative dry spot with their latest work, entitled Princess Ida...
Published on Feb. 18 2003 by Mark Twain


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF THE BEST OF THE LAST DECADE, Jan. 30 2004
By 
Jerry Engelbach (Brooklyn, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Topsy Turvy [Import] (VHS Tape)
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might have revealed a glimmer of intelligence amid the cheap glitter had it awarded Mike Leigh and Jim Broadbent the Oscars they deserved (it won for costume design and makeup), instead of showering accolades on the excellent but far over-rated American Beauty.
The only reason I can see for other reviewers describing Topsy Turvy as a comedy is Broadbent's portrayal of Gilbert as a man of limitless wit. It is about comedy, and much of it is funny, but by the end of the film one has been touched by the humanity of its characters and the perfect period performances of G&S masterpieces.
A fine, fine movie, too subtle and witty for an audience that usually bestows its honors on the biggest noise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars COLORFUL AND FREQUENTLY HILARIOUS LOOK AT MUSICAL THEATRE.., July 4 2004
By 
Shashank Tripathi (Gadabout) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (Widescreen) (DVD)
While somewhat self-indulgent in its length (over two hours!), it's a complete delight in every way. Leigh's dialogue is as witty as his direction is fluid, the music is glorious, and the performances polished from almost everyone in the ensemble.
The principal reservation I have is that those of us in the audience who may not be aficionados of G&S works will leave the theater in the dark about the themes of the compositions. Just what is "The Mikado"--a piece which lampoons British society but which distances the satire by situating the action in Japan? (P.S. The features on the DVD take care of this, so they may be worth watching prior to the movie.)
Yet, Leigh evokes a very authentic atmosphere, creates credible characterisations, and is ultimately not afraid to balance the realities behind the performances with certain matters left in the air at the end. The passion for art (whether it be Gilbert & Sullivan operettas or, you know, clay sculpture) is what burns intensely in this movie. Some may judge this film as stuffy or high-nose, but the tremendous heart of this film is almost impossible not to be carried away by.
A very unusual but satisfying treat.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An improbably great film from an unexpected source, Nov. 23 2003
By 
Robert Moore (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (Widescreen) (DVD)
This delightful retelling of the creation of the Gilbert and Sullivan masterpiece THE MIKADO is as improbable a product from the hands of Mike Leigh as a Hollywood shoot-'em-up would have been from Jane Campion. Leigh had made his reputation by crafting some amazingly intimate films about human relationships in films like the astonishing SECRETS AND LIES (which features in Brenda Blethyn one of the two or three greatest performances ever by an actress in any film). The idea of doing a historical recreation of Gilbert and Sullivan is not one that easily attaches itself to Leigh. Nonetheless, this film is in every sense masterful and entertaining.
With a director of the ability of Mike Leigh, it is no surprise that the film is superb as a production. Everything is superb about the film. The art direction and set design is extraordinary, and I can't imagine a historical film more compellingly done than this one. Moreover, the musical numbers are exquisitely done, and always convincing.
In the end, however, as superb as the direction and the design are, what drives this movie are the performers. This is a very fine ensemble cast, many of them Mike Leigh regulars, like the very fine Timothy Sprall, who winningly plays Richard Temple. Jim Broadbent has since the release of TOPSY-TURVY managed to establish himself as a superstar character actor through films like MOULIN ROUGE, NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, and IRIS (for which he won an Oscar). I always marvel at his range and his ability to sell any role. He is stellar here as the Stoic and emotionally conservative W. S. Gilbert. I really enjoyed Shirley Henderson (who I recently saw in a great Danish/Scottish film WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF, which I hope will get released in the United States) in her smallish role as a musical performer who is struggling with problems of addiction (like many others in the D'Oyly Carte company). The relatively unknown (at least in the U.S.) Martin Savage stands out as George Grossmith, the person who not only starred in the Gilbert and Sullivan musicals, but was the foremost musical stage performer of the late Victorian age, sort of London's answer to Mandy Patinkin a hundred years later. Grossmith also wrote a highly popular book with his brother Weedon, THE DIARY OF A NOBODY. I could go on and on about other performers who stood out in small but impressive roles, such as Lesley Manville, who has a heartbreaking scene as Gilbert's unfulfilled and quietly unhappy wife.
It has to be emphasized that this is not a movie only for fans of light opera. It really is irrelevant whether someone does or does not enjoy Gilbert and Sullivan. This is primarily a movie about people, about show business, and about how a group of flawed and merely human beings can collaborate in producing something phenomenal. This is not a niche film. It is a film to be enjoyed by anyone who enjoyed movies at their best.
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5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful when you can't see the mikado, Aug. 24 2003
By 
E Rice (western ny state) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (Widescreen) (DVD)
this film is, of course, for g&s aficianados. surprising though it may seem to us, there are those who do not like g&s. one of my voice teachers, a brit yet--almost treasonable, went into a complete swivet when i asked to work on a g&s aria. (we settled on one each of cole porter and noel coward.)
this film is also for those who have a fair bit of knowledge about late-19th century england and its mores (there's a virtual acute accent over that 'e'). the passing reference to 'chinese' gordon's death at khartoum places the film's events in the broader historic context. the dialogue manages to suggest the formality of the times without becoming a parody. the sets, especially the senior mrs. gilbert's bedchamber ('room' is inadequate)are marvelous, as, of course, are the costumes. the era was wonderfully captured, along with some of its hypocrisies.
the film is also impressive in the way a short scene or a few lines of dialogue can suggest the family and social history and background of gilbert and sullivan and the various actors. this is not a film for people who cannot hear between the lines.
the perfomances, spoken and sung, are wonderful--especially since you can contrast the performances of several of the actors in this film with their performances in 'trainspotting'--great demonstration of the concept of 'range.'. n.b.: when leonora is speaking of 'her' beauty, she is quoting yumyum's lines from the opera, as well as revealing, possibly, her own feelings.
others have mentioned its treatment of the creative process and the manner in which a performance evolves. i enjoyed the superficial civility of the composer's critiques of the orchestra. so much more suave (and lacking in vulgarity) than is likely today.
this is a thoroughly enjoyable film that assumes the best of its audience. that alone makes it worth watching.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful film packed with great performances and music, Aug. 4 2003
This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (Widescreen) (DVD)
There is so much I love about this movie it is hard to try to find some coherent way to tell you why this is such a wonderful film. There is no way to tell you everything that I delight in, what follows will have to do.
Let's start with the way it evokes late 19th century London and the wonderful culture of that time. We are given wonderful and bright colors in the theatre and in the homes and businesses! We are charmed by the crude telephones (which were ultra-tech in those days), the fashions, the exotic mixing of truly disparate cultures who knew little of each other, the notions of the time of what was progressive (women smoking, "free love", and so on), the music making in salons and in private (the piano four-hands, the recital, and the reading to each other). What a magical evocation of a past age.
I also love the way it takes us into the making of musical theater (well, it is English - so theatre, I guess), with all the varied personalities with their often strange cares and woes. This was a time before agents and while stars still commanded higher pay, they had to try and get it themselves. The negotiations of the cast with D'oyly Carte are priceless, as is his masterful handling of the temperamental Sullivan, and the rigid Gilbert. And Wendy Nottingham plays Helen Lenoir (D'Oyly Carte's associate) with a charming steeliness that is captivating.
As Gilbert and Sullivan struggle with Sullivan's requirement he write a real opera rather than another topsy-turvy musical we get to see how Gilbert comes up with the idea for "The Mikado". And I love how the movie isn't linear. It is wonderful to see various numbers in all stages of preparation. From the earliest rehearsals, to reading lines with the stars and Gilbert correcting the pronunciation and improvisations to get them to hold to what he wrote and the way his lines scan. We even get to see the way cast members struggle when hard rehearsed numbers are cut (and restored).
Then there are the wonderful performances of the entire cast. Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville have a magical chemistry as she cares for and helps a largely oblivious, yet loving Gilbert. He really is clueless, but talented and doesn't understand what he gets away with because of his talent. Ms Manville's performance is probably the most touching and beautiful in the film. On the other hand, Gilbert's encounters with his separated parents is an adventure into the strange and are both humorous and a bit frightening.
Allan Corduner's portrayal of Arthur Sullivan is another treasure the film gives us. Sullivan and his free-spirited entourage are a lot of fun, if a bit tired and dissipated. His liaisons with a wide range of women and his touching conversations with them are touching and a bit pathetic at the same time. However, it is wonderful to hear Victorian chamber music with all its sentimentality. It can somehow sounds a bit cloying to our jaded ears, but the movie does such a fantastic job of evoking the time that the music can be better understood and heard in its cultural context and we can hear with somewhat fresher ears than if we had just popped a disk into our CD player.
Timothy Spall and Martin Savage give great performances as stars in the company. They sing and perform as if they had done these operettas (the film calls them operas) all their lives. Maybe they did before they became famous film actors, but it is uncanny how good they are in their roles.
The frailties of the stars of the D'oyly Carte Company are manifold and provide other opportunities to see 19th century Victorianism up close without condemnation or praise. It is wonderfully done. The crazy and casual use of injected drugs, the constants imbibing of alcohol and the ubiquitous smoking also help us breathe in the culture of that time.
This is a great treasure from that wonderful opening scene with the white gloved attendants checking each theatre seat for proper functionality and cleanliness, to Gilbert's mad walk through the back streets of London during the premier of Mikado, to Leonora's soliloquy to her own beauty and her solo, "The Sun's Rays are All Ablaze" and everything in between are things to always treasure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars So many treasures and riches you find more in each viewing, Aug. 1 2003
This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (Widescreen) (DVD)
There is so much I love about this movie it is hard to try to find some coherent way to tell you why this is such a wonderful film. There is no way to tell you everything that I delight in, what follows will have to do.
Let's start with the way it evokes late 19th century London and the wonderful culture of that time. We are given wonderful and bright colors in the theatre and in the homes and businesses! We are charmed by the crude telephones (which were ultra-tech in those days), the fashions, the exotic mixing of truly disparate cultures who knew little of each other, the notions of the time of what was progressive (women smoking, "free love", and so on), the music making in salons and in private (the piano four-hands, the recital, and the reading to each other). What a magical evocation of a past age.
I also love the way it takes us into the making of musical theater (well, it is English - so theatre, I guess), with all the varied personalities with their often strange cares and woes. This was a time before agents and while stars still commanded higher pay, they had to try and get it themselves. The negotiations of the cast with D'oyly Carte are priceless, as is his masterful handling of the temperamental Sullivan, and the rigid Gilbert. And Wendy Nottingham plays Helen Lenoir (D'Oyly Carte's associate) with a charming steeliness that is captivating.
As Gilbert and Sullivan struggle with Sullivan's requirement he write a real opera rather than another topsy-turvy musical we get to see how Gilbert comes up with the idea for "The Mikado". And I love how the movie isn't linear. It is wonderful to see various numbers in all stages of preparation. From the earliest rehearsals, to reading lines with the stars and Gilbert correcting the pronunciation and improvisations to get them to hold to what he wrote and the way his lines scan. We even get to see the way cast members struggle when hard rehearsed numbers are cut (and restored).
Then there are the wonderful performances of the entire cast. Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville have a magical chemistry as she cares for and helps a largely oblivious, yet loving Gilbert. He really is clueless, but talented and doesn't understand what he gets away with because of his talent. Ms Manville's performance is probably the most touching and beautiful in the film. On the other hand, Gilbert's encounters with his separated parents is an adventure into the strange and are both humorous and a bit frightening.
Allan Corduner's portrayal of Arthur Sullivan is another treasure the film gives us. Sullivan and his free-spirited entourage are a lot of fun, if a bit tired and dissipated. His liaisons with a wide range of women and his touching conversations with them are touching and a bit pathetic at the same time. However, it is wonderful to hear Victorian chamber music with all its sentimentality. It can somehow sounds a bit cloying to our jaded ears, but the movie does such a fantastic job of evoking the time that the music can be better understood and heard in its cultural context and we can hear with somewhat fresher ears than if we had just popped a disk into our CD player.
Timothy Spall and Martin Savage give great performances as stars in the company. They sing and perform as if they had done these operettas (the film calls them operas) all their lives. Maybe they did before they became famous film actors, but it is uncanny how good they are in their roles.
The frailties of the stars of the D'oyly Carte Company are manifold and provide other opportunities to see 19th century Victorianism up close without condemnation or praise. It is wonderfully done. The crazy and casual use of injected drugs, the constants imbibing of alcohol and the ubiquitous smoking also help us breathe in the culture of that time.
This is a great treasure from that wonderful opening scene with the white gloved attendants checking each theatre seat for proper functionality and cleanliness, to Gilbert's mad walk through the back streets of London during the premier of Mikado, to Leonora's soliloquy to her own beauty and her solo, "The Sun's Rays are All Ablaze" and everything in between are things to always treasure.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Evidently too classy for me, April 6 2003
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (Widescreen) (DVD)
TOPSY-TURVY won two Oscars at the 2000 Academy Awards (costuming, make-up), and was hailed by critics of national standing as one of the year's best movies. Well, this review gives me the opportunity to demonstrate what a monumental low-brow I really am.
Set in mid-1880s London, the film is essentially the story of the conception and production of the comic opera "Mikado" by Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) and William Gilbert (Jim Broadbent). Sullivan, the composer, is an irrepressible bon vivant and the complete opposite of lyricist Gilbert, a serious businessman. The two ruled the city's stage scene for years, and T-T is a tribute to their remarkable partnership.
Unfortunately, I've never been a particular fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, and T-T is 160 interminable minutes of dialogue that was, for me, neither dramatic or comic, and the "action" proceeded at a glacial pace. The costuming and make-up deserved the Oscars they won, and Broadbent and Corduner do solid work, but how far can you go on those merits?
TOPSY-TURVY will engage those students of the live stage who are fascinated with the nuts and bolts of putting a production together. But I may as well have been watching two engineers collaborate on the design and construction of an assembly line for making wire hangers. Even the 15 minutes or so dedicated to showing "Mikado" as it finally appeared at the Savoy Theatre left me cold. "Mikado" is no "Cats", which I saw at least four times, or "Evita", which I saw thrice.
As I recall, T-T played locally only in the art houses, and even then not for very long. It apparently didn't appeal to the sweaty movie-going masses, of which, for once, I admit being a proud member.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings--wonderful music, no plot!!!, Feb. 18 2003
This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (Widescreen) (DVD)
What is there to say about Topsy-Turvy, a sometimes delightful, often strenuous, musical period drama? Topsy-Turvy catches Gilbert and Sullivan in the midst of their successful careers. Having already scored numerous hits(The Pirates of Penzance, Sorcerer, and HMS Pinafore to name a few), they've reached a creative dry spot with their latest work, entitled Princess Ida. Sullivan (Allan Corduner), the composer, is tired of not being taken seriously and vows to write a "serious" piece of music as his next effort, much to the dismay of his partner Gilbert (Jim Broadbent), who is happy with their whimsical, "topsy-turvy" scenarios. Sullivan finds his fulfilling his goal extremely difficult until, due to his wife's insistence, Gilbert attends a Japanese exposition in London, where inspiration quickly strikes and "The Mikado" is slowly (exruciatingly slow) born. Soon, we are being taken behind the creative process of the opera, from the writing of "The Mikado" and eventually to its opening night.Never having heard a Gilbert and Sullivan piece, I was quite fascinated by the musical numbers and enjoyed them a great deal. They are executed quite nicely and performed with great energy by the entire incredible cast. And it is the fantastic cast and these musical numbers that make the film so bearable. The costumes, the sets, the performances, and Mike Leigh's brilliant direction are all on target and greatly benefit the film. Unfortunately, there is not enough plot, and not much going on, to save the film from being an absolute bore. And at almost three hours, it is an almost unbearable bore. I would find my mind drifting off until another wonderful musical number began. Unfortunately, they are too few and too far in-between. Perhaps a film version of "The Mikado" would have been more appropriate because there simply is not enough story here to sustain the entire film and keep its audience attention. Had the film been 40 minutes shorter, and that's a lot, it could have greatly benefited the film. Overall, the film had too much going for it to be absolutely terrible, if only it was more interesting. How I wish it was!!! The soundtrack, however, is simply amazing!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Genesis of a much-loved work, Dec 28 2002
By 
Iain S. Palin (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Topsy Turvy [Import] (VHS Tape)
"Topsy Turvy" is more than just a "play within a play" although it works very well at that level. We see the genesis of Gilbert and Sullivan's best-known work "The Mikado" after the partnership has gone through a low spell, and get enough scenes from its staging (and that of other G & S "Savoy operas") to satisfy all but the keenest of Savoayards. We enjoy immensely the way in which the premiere is rehearsed and pulled together under Gilbert's dictatorial directorship. It is all very funny but there is a darker side in the world outside. The relationship between Gilbert and Sullivan and the efforts that the impresario D'Oyley Carte and his team have to make to keep them working together are very well set out and the niceties of class distinctions in Victorian London and among the theatre people are clear.
The undoubted star is Jim Broadbent as a somewhat misanthropic Gilbert, capable of creating some of the wittiest plots and lines in the English language but not of expressing his own emotions to his dysfunctional family (we can see how he got the way he is!) or to his loving and long-suffering wife. Watch out, though for two characters who have appeared more recently in very different roles: Andy Serkis (voice and body model for Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings") as a quirky and outspoken choreographer, and Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle in "Harry Potter II") who has here a more substantial part as the attractive if egotistical lead soprano.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best biopic ever! Not just for Gilbert & Sullivan fans!, Nov. 8 2002
By 
This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (Widescreen) (DVD)
Topsy-Turvy is the story of the creation of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, "The Mikado." It contains not just the story of the musical's creation but many scenes from Mikado and other G&S musicals. Long-time "G&S" (Gilbert & Sullivan) fans probably found this movie a long time ago. I am one of them, so first I'll say that I found the performance of the G&S material in this movie absolutely superb. I've never seen a Mikado as genuinely funning and eccentric as Tim Sprall's, or a Yum-Yum as winsomely self-centered as Shirley Hendersen's Leonora Branham.
Viewers who find musicals simplistic or shallow or generally silly should make an exception in the case of Topsy-Turvy. It is none of those things. In true Mike Leigh fashion, the actors inhabit their characters like second skin. No one is simple or shallow. Nor does Leigh avoid the seamier side of London theatrical life. I particularly liked Jim Broadbent's bitterly comic and misanthropic Gilbert, Martin Savage as the opium-addicted George Grossmith (the 'patter baritone' who rips through Gilbert's rapidfire lyrics like a rap song), and Lucy Manville as Gilbert's long-suffering wife.
Finally, the film is visually beautiful and detailed; wonderful costumes, lighting, and sets that seem faultless in their historical detail.
One of the best, if not the best, bio-pic ever made.
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