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 19 months ago by ray
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 So many treasures and riches you find more in each viewing,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! A Masterpiece! A Work of True Genius!,
To be honest I was never a Gilbert and Sullivan fan, and then Topsy Turvy came along.
I loved the way you really got the sense of how G and S's creativity manifested and also the opulence of their lifestyle and of the Victorian Era itself.
I can't get my fill of this film. Mike Leigh has created a masterpiece. The actors are brilliant and their singing is gorgeous-like everything else in this exquisite production.
The attention to detail is awesome.
I agree heartily with all the other positive reviews in this section.
As for the negative comments:
2.0 out of 5 stars Evidently too classy for me,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST HAVE FOR G&S FANS,
Topsy-Turvy is a time-capsule view of part of the lives of Gilbert, Sullivan, D'Oyly Cart and the Savoy Company who brought Pinafore, Penzance, Mikado and others to life as told during the months preceeding the decision to produce the Mikado, through rehearsal and finally opening night. A superb masterpiece of vignettes and touching insights into the lives of two of the most gifted collaborators of the Victorian Age.
The music is awesome, the dialog is witty and rapier-sharp, the sets, costumes and production values are top-drawer. If you appreciate Merchant-Ivory, or any other Victorian era movie, then this is a MUST SEE.
I highly recommend it.
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. 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!!!
4.0 out of 5 stars Genesis of a much-loved work,
"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.
2.0 out of 5 stars A Christmas Turkey,
By A Customer
I was really looking forward to this as it was part of the BBC's prime time schedule for Christmas Day. But what a disappointment: although the acting, cinematography, period detail etc. was impressive the plot unfolded at a snail's pace. Did we really need an hour to establish the creative tension between the partnership? And where was the humour in what was supposed to be a time when people went out of their way to exhibit it in conversation? In the end I turned over to watch a documentary about another comedic duo Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and had much more fun.
5.0 out of 5 stars Best biopic ever! Not just for Gilbert & Sullivan fans!,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing,
I thought this movie was brilliant. Very insightful and entertaining. Well paced, excellently acted, wonderful character performances. I thought it was one of the best movies I saw this year.
5.0 out of 5 stars To Find Out More......,
By A Customer
I simply want to recommend a fantastic book about Mike Leigh that is available on this site: Ray Carney's The Films of Mike Leigh: Embracing the World published by Cambridge University Press. Carney is the best film critic I've ever read--few footnotes, no jargon, amazing passion for the subject, and mind-bending insights. Check out the book. I keep it on my coffee table so that as I am working my way through Leigh's films on video I can read the chapter on each film immediately after watching it. Carney's beautiful descriptions of scenes and subtle insights often make me pop the video in again to check out a scene or two or three a second time. Like having an ideal guide through a tangled and uphill but sublime landscape. This book should be bundled with the videos!
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Topsy-Turvy (Criterion) (Blu-Ray) by Mike Leigh (Blu-ray - 2011)
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