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Topsy Turvy [DVD] [2000]

Jim Broadbent , Allan Corduner , Mike Leigh    Suitable for 12 years and over   DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
Price: 6.14 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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At first glance, a musical period comedy-drama about Gilbert and Sullivan seems an odd fit for director Mike Leigh, who made his name with searing, intense contemporary dramas such as Secrets and Lies and Career Girls. What could the Victorian world of light opera offer a film-maker who specialises in the world of modern-day middle-class England? Plenty, as it turns out. A wonderful meditation on the creation of art, Topsy-Turvy catches Gilbert and Sullivan at a crossroads in their illustrious careers. Having scored numerous hits (like The Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore), they've reached a creative dry spot with their latest, Princess Ida. Composer Sullivan (Allan Corduner) despairs of ever being taken seriously, and vows to write a "serious" piece, much to the consternation of librettist Gilbert (Jim Broadbent), who's flummoxed and unyielding when asked to change another of his whimsical, "topsy-turvy" scenarios. All seems lost when, thanks to his wife's insistence, Gilbert attends a Japanese exposition in London, and faster than you can say "Three little maids from school are we", inspiration strikes.

The rest, as they say, is history, but Leigh re-creates the creative process with meticulous and loving care, from the writing of The Mikado to its staging (wherein Gilbert acts as director), costuming, orchestration, rehearsal, and ultimate premiere. Some may balk at the running time of the film (almost three hours), but it's a journey well worth taking, down to the precise details of late-19th-century London. Still, you'll know you're in Mike Leigh territory, with his precise characterisations and a heartfelt, melancholy ending. And no one has a way with actors like Leigh. This peerless ensemble, headed up by Broadbent in an Oscar-worthy performance, inhabit their characters like a second skin, and it's wonderful to see an authentic-feeling period drama in which the actors resemble real people and you don't expect someone glamorous like Helena Bonham Carter or Rupert Everett to pop up. Gilbert and Sullivan aficionados will revel in the re-enactments of The Mikado (newcomers will likely be won over, too). All in all, a breathtaking film. --Mark Englehart,

Product Description

Mike Leigh directs this comic look at one of light opera's most famous creative partnerships. In 1880s London, the writing team of William Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) and Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) looks set to split after the comparative failure of their latest collaboration, 'Princess Ida'. Sullivan is keen to prove himself as a serious composer, feeling that Gilbert's writing has become too formulaic. However, when Gilbert's wife, Kitty (Lesley Manville), takes him to an exhibition of Japanese culture, his imagination is fired, and he enthusiastically contacts Sullivan with ideas for a new project.

Product Description

United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (1.85:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary, Interactive Menu, Scene Access, Trailer(s), SYNOPSIS: Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy is such a faithful rendering of a past era, it's as though the director time-warped his cinematographer back to 19th century England. In his first period piece, Leigh transplants the grittiness of his films' usual working-class British milieu, and the result is a Victorian England with a lived-in look, rather than one glossed over by a fanciful sheen. Armed with this sort of authenticity, Topsy-Turvy becomes a new classic among movies, documenting the behind-the-scenes fits and foibles of a dramatic production. And what better production than The Mikado, the hilarious turning point in the careers of Gilbert and Sullivan, whose precarious professional status made the choice of a Japanese-themed operetta all the more fraught with peril. Leigh lets loose and gets big laughs from his cast of prima donnas getting fitted for kimonos and taking lessons from the misinformed about how to "act Japanese." But the film also contains Leigh's noted finesse for examining emotional distance, most notably between Gilbert and his long-suffering wife (Leslie Manville). And Leigh regular Timothy Spall is unforgettable as he tries to swallow his wounded pride, learning only days before the premiere that his big number will be cut. Topsy-Turvy is the rare film in which grand-scale art direction and intimate character study both feel absolutely true. To echo the succinct praise of Broadbent's Gilbert, Topsy-Turvy is "capital."
SCREENED/AWARDED AT: BAFTA Awards, British Independent Film Awards, Oscar Academy Awards, Venice Film Festival, ...Topsy-Turvy
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