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5.0 out of 5 stars superb docudrama
As usual, Mike Leigh attains wonderfully naturalistic performances from his actors. The movie is quite long but is interesting and full of humor, with excellent musical performances.
Published 23 months ago by ray

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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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5.0 out of 5 stars superb docudrama, Aug. 11 2012
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This review is from: Topsy Turvy (Full Screen) (DVD)
As usual, Mike Leigh attains wonderfully naturalistic performances from his actors. The movie is quite long but is interesting and full of humor, with excellent musical performances.
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4 of 4 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
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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
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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 For G & S fans, Feb. 17 2011
This review is from: Topsy Turvy (Full Screen) (DVD)
A very enjoyable movie for G & S fans. Overall production was great, singers excellent and portrayal of the two main characters brought their life and times to life.
However the disk itself was good for first half and then kept sticking and jumping so that spoilt watching the movie.
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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 Rich Characterization + Great Music, Nov. 20 2003
By 
David R. Eastwood (Long Island, NY) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (Widescreen) (DVD)
TOPSY-TURVY is a richly plotted bio-pic focusing on how W. S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan (who seemed to be burnt out and suffering from writer's/composer's block) gained their second wind and came back big time with THE MIKADO. Their very different personalities are clearly portrayed in both their professional and their private lives. In and around the main action are dozens of "minor" characters, all vividly presented. We get an excellent sense of what late Victorian life was REALLY like in London among the theater crowd, AND we get the excellent, clever G&S soundtrack that should make thousands of new fans for DVDs and CDs featuring the operettas of these two amazing men. Heart-warming and poignant, this is a DVD you'll want to watch over and over. As a "page-to-stage" story, TOPSY-TURVY is far superior to the totally bogus film SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.
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4.0 out of 5 stars AN UNDER-RATED CLASSIC, Oct. 16 2003
By 
Shashank Tripathi (Gadabout) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (Widescreen) (DVD)
This visually luxurious movie was a charm at the theatre. At home on DVD it's even better! The sounds, sets, colours all combine to provide a stunning 161 minute biopic.
The portrayal of the seamier side of Victorian morals is clever and witty, particularly Sullivan's attention to his various comforts. The lives of the cast also caught my attention - each one drawn very quickly and with incredible depth, given that there were so many of them.
Fine performances, wonderful overall ambience, accurate authenticity, deep characterisations, intelligence in script and execution -- a film that's not afraid to show the realities behind the performances and not afraid to leave certain matters in the air at the end.
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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
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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 Insight into Gilbert & Sullivan, Aug. 10 2003
By 
John Munson "JaxG3" (Westlake Village, California United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (Widescreen) (DVD)
This was a great movie just on its own but if you like G & S shows it's gives great insight into the two men and their sometimes difficult relationship. I'm struck by how much humor and sparkling life has been produced by these dour old men. If you like this movie then you have to buy The Pirates of Penzance with Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt...the best of a mighty good list of shows.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful film packed with great performances and music, Aug. 4 2003
By 
Craig Matteson (Saline, MI) - See all my reviews
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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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Topsy-Turvy (Criterion) (Blu-Ray)
Topsy-Turvy (Criterion) (Blu-Ray) by Mike Leigh (Blu-ray - 2011)
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