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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful movie of Gilbert and Sullivan, Victorian theater and the making of the Mikado
If ever there were a loving valentine sent to the world of the theater, and especially to the world of Gilbert and Sullivan, this is it. With Topsy-Turvy, director Mike Leigh has brought to life not just Victorian London, but how theater collaboration can build a masterpiece. Leigh shows us in sumptuous detail how The Mikado came to be. Starting with the irritable...
Published on 30 May 2007 by C. O. DeRiemer

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Curious film
Some very fine acting and some good lines here and there..."the more I see of men the more highly I rate dogs"...ouch.Shame i'm not really a G&S fan and my French girlfriend was a little bemused by it all.
Published 1 month ago by Bob Spinks


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful movie of Gilbert and Sullivan, Victorian theater and the making of the Mikado, 30 May 2007
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Topsy Turvy [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
If ever there were a loving valentine sent to the world of the theater, and especially to the world of Gilbert and Sullivan, this is it. With Topsy-Turvy, director Mike Leigh has brought to life not just Victorian London, but how theater collaboration can build a masterpiece. Leigh shows us in sumptuous detail how The Mikado came to be. Starting with the irritable partnership between W. S. Gilbert (Jim Boadbent) and Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner), which is about to split apart, we're off on a journey to make-believe Japan that ends in triumph. Along the way we deal with Gilbert's irascibility and love of puncturing complacent buffoons and Sullivan's impatient desire to write greater things than comic operettas.

The pair have had great success when we meet them, already the authors of ten hits which include H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance. However, their last show, Princess Ida, didn't do well. Gilbert feels he's run dry of clever ideas and he's tired of Sullivan's often-stated need to write better things. "If you wish to write a grand opera about a prostitute," he tells Sullivan, "dying of consumption in a garret, I suggest you contact Mr. Ibsen in Oslo. I am sure he will be able to furnish you with something suitably dull." Sullivan, on the other hand, is tired of Gilbert's make-believe contrivances. "Oh, Gilbert!" he says, "you and your world of topsy-turvydom. In 1881, it was a magic coin; and before that it was a magic lozenge; and in 1877 it was an elixir."

Gilbert and his wife visit the Great Exhibition and see the Japanese display. He's taken by the color, the exotic dress and customs...and he thinks of a great idea for a new comic opera which will take place in Japan. Sullivan comes to realize that his desire to write real operas and oratorios won't bring in a fraction of the income his partnership with Sullivan has provided, and he agrees to the project. We're observing all this as it goes along, getting to know both men, amused by their weaknesses and impressed by their strengths. Gilbert is a big man, bluff, not one for giving compliments, intimidating most of the people he meets with a sharp tongue. But he knows what he's doing, and much of what he's about is poking fun at the stuffy strictures and posturing of Victorian manners. Sullivan may be a womanizer who loves the luxurious life, a man who needs a collaborator more than he realizes, but he's a dedicated professional. Any production he is a partner in he'll commit himself to completely.

The last half of the movie takes us into the world of the theater to watch the creation on stage of The Mikado. Gilbert directs, Sullivan conducts; they rehearse actors who are allowed lives of their own, with all the ego, the hurt feelings, the blossoming under praise, the dedication, the skill...and, sometimes, the alcohol and the opium. Watching Gilbert rehearse three cockney actresses in how to perform "Three Little Maids From School Are We" is a great bit of movie making all by itself. We're treated to seeing some wonderful songs rehearsed and performed..."A Wandering Minstrel I," "A More Humane Mikado," "The Criminal Cried As He Dropped Him Down" and, as a sort of coda to the movie and life in the theater, "The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze."

Topsy-Turvy is gorgeous to look at, especially during the scenes on stage. The actors all do excellent jobs. Just a few of the standouts, in addition to Broadbent and Corduner, include Martin Savage, Timothy Spall, Shirley Henderson and Kevin McKidd, all playing stage actors rehearsing and performing. For those who remember Gollum with fondness, there's also Andy Serkis as the dance director John D'Auban.

And are the Gilbert and Sullivan plays still funny in the 21st Century? They may require a desire to appreciate them, a willingness to find out what is being parodied in the show you'll see, and a liking for literate, complex wordplay. The shows certainly require actors with trained diction. But their shows are still being staged and people are still buying tickets for them. Two weeks ago my wife and I went to see a semi-professional production of one of their lesser efforts, Patience. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves watching pompous poets being punctured. The theater was close to a sell-out.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TT wins a new generation of G&S fans, 24 Jan 2004
By 
Andy Millward (Tiptree, Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Topsy Turvy [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
Make no mistake, this film succeeds on many levels, not least in resurrecting Mike Leigh's career just when you thought there was no more scope for improvised dialogue!
His treatment of Gilbert and Sullivan is sympathetic, given the reputation of both men for being grumpy and irrascible. Both come across as human and three dimensional, certainly not cardboard cutouts. Both notably come alive as the Mikado project gathers pace, though Gilbert's evident distate for his own libretto is also noted. Broadbent and Cordunier are magnificent, easily worthy of Oscars (Jim Broadbent's award for Iris was evidently also a recognition of performances such as this.) In fact, all of the ensemble cast are all stupendously credible and entertaining.
Taking the viewer through rehearsals may be tedious in some eyes, but offers a fascinating glimpse of the creative process in action. The music is a clear winner here, bringing out the nuances of wit and inspiration in the text and showing just why G&S were the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice of their day.
Splendid effort - can't imagine the subject matter being given a more rousing encore!
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the year's finest films, 16 Nov 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Topsy Turvy [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
'Topsy-Turvy' marks something of a departure for Mike Leigh, but a most rewarding one, the result being one of the most entertaining, wonderfully performed period dramas the cinema has seen in an age. Great dialogue and direction keep the film moving at a sprightly pace and make you wonder where the 150 minute running time went, especially in the second half. The DVD delivers on picture quality and though loses points for not being anamorphic, gains them back through the inclusion of a commentary track by Mike Leigh that is one of the best I have yet heard, giving a wealth of detail about the film's production and the facts behind the film.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GILBERT & SULLIVAN BROUGHT TO LIFE, 6 Feb 2005
This review is from: Topsy Turvy [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
This is a delightful film.
It can appeal to almost anyone, full of wonderful characters, the story of how Gilbert & Sullivan came to write their masterpiece The Mikado is facinating......
Jim Broadbent brings W.S. Gilbert within reach, a dour, typically Victorian gentleman, yet the driving force of the partnership. His gift for seeing the comic in verse balanced by his attention to the detail of production is complimented by Sullivan's response with music of the greatest lyricism.
All the cast are magnificent, so many stories within the main story. The set design, costumes and overall feel for the period draw you into the film....
The storyline interspersed with performances of parts of the opera makes the whole a joy to watch.
The film stands alongside : Amadeus (Mozart) and Immortal Beloved (Beethoven) as great films about musics greatest artists.
The best compliment I can pay to this film, which I have watched eight times, is that I would be happy to watch it again tonight......
For lovers of period drama, Gilbert & Sullivans music or anyone who loves masterful filmaking......ENJOY.....
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genesis of a much-loved work, 10 April 2008
By 
Iain S. Palin (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Topsy Turvy [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
"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 film is longer than the current norm, but suits it.
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. However the rest of the cast is also very good, especially the underrated Shirley Henderson as the company's lead soprano. Watch out for Andy ("Gollum") Serkis under lots of hair as a quirky choreographer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious!, 13 April 2007
By 
F. S. L'hoir (Irvine, CA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This film is a feast both for the eyes and the ears. The costumes and settings allow us a glimpse into upper middle-class life in Victorian England. Every detail, from the box on a tall pole that was a telephone to the ladies' pendulous wire-framed bustles, is perfect.

Although the principal story, about the tension between Sir Arthur Sullivan, who thought he ought to be writing more serious music than tunes for the topsy-turvy lyrics of his collaborator, W.S. Gilbert, is interesting, the secondary story of the preparation and performance of "The Mikado" is not only compelling but also delightful to behold. The rehearsal scenes are particularly engaging, as are the personalities of the performers--the tenor, who does not want to go onstage without his corset; the baritone whose feelings are hurt when his solo is cut; the soprano with her little drinking problem; and the patter-performer with an even more serious addiction. Their characters are developed so beautifully that one begins to care intensely about what happens to them.

This beautifully-directed and well-acted film excels on almost every level. Some DVD's should be passed swiftly on to friends (or enemies, depending on the quality of the product). This one, however, is a keeper!
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Film Ever Made, 18 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Topsy Turvy [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
This is, without doubt, the best film I have ever seen. Flawless, utterly flawless. Thank god all that wasted lottery money finally got into a decent film. Characters, costume, lighting, sets, everything is utter genius. It even makes you proud to be British. Good God, now there's a thing!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars “Topsy-Turvy” on BLU RAY – Compatibility Issues On ‘US’ Only Disc For UK and EUROPEAN Buyers…, 1 Mar 2014
By 
Mark Barry "Mark Barry" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Criterion Collection: Topsy Turvy [Blu-ray] [1999] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
Mike Leigh’s “Topsy-Turvy” is only available on ‘BLU RAY’ in the States. But therein lies a problem for UK and European buyers…

The US issue is REGION-A LOCKED - so it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK Blu Ray players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't). Don’t confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front – that won’t help.

Until such time as someone on this side of the water gives this 1999 gem a REGION B and C release – check your BLU RAY player has the capacity to play REGION A – before you buy the pricey Criterion issue…
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 4 Nov 2011
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Topsy Turvy [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
Topsy-Turvy is in many ways an atypical Mike Leigh film - (relatively) large budget, lavish production values, music-based drama. However, the Leigh trademarks are all present if you take the time to look - quirky humour, tragic storylines and tremendous acting performances. Having first seen the film at the 1999 London Film Festival and subsequently perhaps 10 more times, it is a film that grows on each viewing. Indeed, I would not count myself as a Gilbert and Sullivan fan (and still don't, quite frankly) but the G&S music is totally infectious in this film production.

Whilst the storyline per se is only moderately interesting/challenging, it is (as in most Leigh films) the atmosphere created by the acting performances that make this the outstanding film that it is. It is difficult to know where to begin in terms of the extensive and stellar cast Leigh has assembled. As well as sterling performances from Leigh regulars Wendy Nottingham, Timothy Spall, Ron Cook, Alison Steadman, Sam Kelly and Mark Benton and Leigh 'newcomers' Allan Corduner, Shirley Henderson, Kevin McKidd, Andy Serkis and Dexter Fletcher, there are a number of performances that for me are particularly special.

Martin Savage as George Grossmith is quite simply a revelation, providing a mix of humour, pathos and tragedy which, even for a Mike Leigh film, is quite outstanding. The fact that Savage has gone on to become a Leigh regular as well as creating great characters in TV series Extras and The Thick Of It is no surprise.

But the greatest level of praise must be reserved for what for me are two career best performances from Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville. As should be obvious, these are two of the very best ever British actors and their performances in Topsy-Turvy are career high points. Jim Broadbent's role as W S Gilbert is simply brilliant, predominantly comprising Broadbent at his supercilious best but also mixed with great humour. Lesley Manville provides one of the great tragic performances in cinema, culminating (as noted in other reviews) in her final scene with Broadbent, during which her allusions to her frustrated life are absolutely devastating. Quite simply, towering performances.

So there you have it, Leigh's greatest film? Not sure, but (in my eyes) it is rapidly approaching Life Is Sweet, Secrets and Lies, Meantime and Naked. Marvellous stuff.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Topsy Turvy on Blu-ray, 7 April 2011
This review is from: Criterion Collection: Topsy Turvy [Blu-ray] [1999] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
I will not talk about the film,as there are many reviews discussing it in detail.All I want to say to those considering upgrading the DVD version of this masterpiece is that the film never looked or sounded better. There is such a richness of detail that I forgot that I've seen this film countless times. The people at Criterion have done a fantastic job! Do not hesitate to upgrade,you'll be very happy you did!
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