After their production Princess Ida meets with less-than-stunning reviews, the relationship between Gilbert and Sullivan is strained to breaking. Their friends and associates attempt to get the two to work together again, which opens the way to one of their greatest successes.
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Peter Mulloy, artistic director of the Carl Rosa Opera, did the research to reproduce the original costumes and scenic design of "The Mikado" for the production in "Topsy-Turvy". After the film was completed, he acquired the costumes and scenery for a performance of "The Mikado" by his opera company. A DVD of that performance is available from the Carl Rosa Opera company.
Topsy-Turvy is an enjoyable film that is about Gilbert & Sullivan's reconciliation and how The Mikado (many consider their greatest work) resulted. The movie is glorious in terms of cinematography, music & very clever script. I really like the "English Wit" that prevailed during the Victorian Age, and Topsy-Turvy is chock full of it. The dialog is so prim and proper, which makes for some really funny moments . This film will appeal to many, but one must have gained some appreciation for the type of music these gentlemen produced, otherwise forget it! Being open-minded will add to the enjoyment of this very classy film. I wish more films like Topsy-Turvy were made, we need more culture and less violence out of Hollywood. I defend the merits of this movie and can recommend it without any reservation. BUY IT!!
Creative genius is a fickle creature. It is rare (some might sayimpossible) to find artists working in concert who don't experience theaptly termed "creative differences". Indeed most collaborations, whetherthe result of clashing egos (Simon and Garfunkel), divergent visions (TheBeatles), or plain old hatred (Guns 'N Roses) eventually self-destruct. Therein lies the dilemma for the operatic duo of Gilbert andSullivan. After nearly a decade of uninterrupted commercial successes their career hasreached a crossroads: their latest effort is doing poorly at the box officedue to a combination of lackluster reviews, and a vicious heat wave. Sullivan (Allan Corduner) exhausted and in ill health, repairs to thecontinent to rejuvenate himself and upon his return informs Gilbert (JimBroadbent) that he has grown tired of the repetitive and unimaginativenature of their operas. Sullivan has decided to devote his remaining time,however long, to serious music. After stewing about the revelation for several hours, Gilbert agrees toaccompany his wife to a Japanese exposition in the hope that he will findsome peace. Instead he experiences an epiphany: he will write a new operaset in Japan. The question is can he convince Sullivan to scoreit?Director Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies) is legendary for his attention todetail. He requires his actors not only learn their lines, but create ahistory for the character: their favorite foods, hygiene habits, andliterary choices. Consequently he elicits unique performances from hiscast. This film is no exception: Broadbent's stoic, sensible, and dignifiedGilbert is simultaneously witty and clueless, while Martin Savage'sperformance as the pompous, manic, substance-abusing diva George Grossmithis eerily familiar (shades of Robert Downey Jr.). Leigh also goes to greatefforts to create both a pleasing and authentic visual experience: from thesets, to the backdrops to the costumes, he does an excellent job ofrecreating the Victorian era. Unfortunately Leigh's microscopic view is alsohis undoing.I enjoyed several aspects of this film, but there's just too much of it:with a runtime of 140+ minutes, Leigh spends so much time dwelling on theminutiae of the characters and setting that he forgets about the substance.Little if anything happens in the first hour and a half of the film (one ofthe reviewers sitting behind me fell asleep) and by the time the filmfinally hit it's stride I was checking my watch to see when it would beover.If you are a Gilbert and Sullivan fan, you may enjoy this film. But mark mywords: wear comfortable clothes and don't go for the big Coke unless youhave a titanic bladder.
Let's face it, this film was made for the fans. The fans of a very specific niche genre: Gilbert & Sullivan, and in particular, "The Mikado". And that's very cool with me, because I am a lifelong G&S lover, and "The Mikado" has a special place in my heart amongst all thier luminous works. And if you are not among the fans, you may not enjoy this movie quite as much - it may also make you curious enough to investigate further, and become a fan yourself.This is a pretty accurate telling of the story of the making of "The Mikado", one of the most charming works of the 19th century theater, and which uis still popular today. The film is truly fascinating, and for those of us weaned on the D'Oyly Carte opera Company, all the familiar people are there: George Grossmith, Richard Temple, Durward lely, Rutland Barrington, Jessie Bond and the rest. It is a moment of infinite joy.There are, alas, a couple of very minor quibbles. The personalities of Gilbert and Sulivan themselves are a bit misleading. I know, for instance, of no occasion in which Sullivan arranged for abortions for his mistress, and Gilbert is show here to be so uptight that his marriage is virtually sterile. Neither of these men were as bad as this, and I am sorry the film writers chose to show them in such unsavory light. However, like the Pirate King, I will look over it. And like jack Point, I will let that pass.Buy this one for sure, and enjoy it over and over. It is one of those films i can't seem to ever get tired of.
The only fault I can make of this film is that it cannot seem to decide between being the story of the inspiration and creation of "The Mikado", or life in the theater of 1885 London. As the former it does an outstanding job. As the latter, it presents a great deal of ancillary information that, while interesting, slows the movie down. In particular, the first 40 minutes contains much more background on Sir Arthur Sullivan than is necessary, including a rather bizarre scene in a Parisian brothel that I suspect was solely responsible for the film's "R" rating. Once the impasse between Gilbert and Sullivan is broken by the creation of "The Mikado", the film takes off. The rehearsal scenes are delightful; humorous and well performed. The actual performance scenes are equally so. The music is infectious. This film gets better each time I watch it. Gilbert and Sullivan fans won't need much convincing but with a slow start and daunting length it is, admittedly, asking a lot of the audience. With such fine performances, it is worth the effort.
Topsy-Turvy is an odd film. It's very pretty to look at, well crafted, andpleasant enough to watch, but I couldn't make out what the point of it was.It's a sort of dramatised documentary about how Gilbert and Sullivan came towrite "The Mikado". There are coy little cameos of Gilbert and Sullivanthemselves, D'Oyly Carte, and the actors who formed their stock company. Weget some excerpts from "The Sorceror"; we get told that Sullivan didn't likewriting comic operas very much and was unhappy with Gilbert's librettooffered him, so, by chance, Gilbert is taken off to a Japanese exhibition inLondon and is stirred to write "The Mikado" which saves the partnership andthey all (more or less) live happily ever after. But at least half the filmis taken up with showing how Gilbert set about staging the play. Which isall very jolly and quite interesting if (like me) you like G&S. But when theend-credits rolled up, I couldn't help thinking "so what"? As a film, itcouldn't seem to make up its mind what it wanted to be. It looked like itwould have made a good 1 hour Channel 4 docudrama, but someone had decidedto turn it into a feature length film. But there wasn't enough there. Ittold us nothing about G&S that you couldn't find out from an entry on themin any encyclopaedia; and if you wanted a documentary about staging a G&Soperetta, why go to all this bother? Alternatively, if you wanted a film of"The Mikado", let's have that. I thought it was rather a missed opportunityto explore something about the relationship between the three men (G&S andCarte) that created this remarkable series of operettas, but instead we gotan amiable souffle of a film that tasted nice enough but did nothing tosatisfy (dramatic) hunger.
In spite of feeling for much of the second half like a less accessibleversion of Forty Second Street, Mike Leigh's new film must count as hisbest. Blessed with sumptuous sets and a 'made to be filmed' slice of 19thCentury cultural life, he has worked his special magic in making anenormouscast of unpleasant characters seem wholly lovable.Best of all is Jim Broadbent as Gilbert directing a simple scene in arehearsal room. There has been no better filmic representation of thejointcreative process since La Nuit Americaine.
This is truly one of the most brilliant films ever made and completely under-appreciated. I just wish more people would see it and realize how wonderful it is. A triumph. I'm just heartbroken that it's going out of print in DVD - a total tragedy.
Wow. What a good film! Mike Leigh shows how talented he can be. Themainfocus is on the tempestuous partnership between Gilbert and Sullivan. Butalong the way we get to know the impresario, the actors off-stage, cuttingedge technology circa 1885 (the telephone, the electric bell). There is alot of extremely funny stuff in this film, along with a nuanced look atlifein Victorian times that feels very accurate. And one scene betweenGilbertand his wife that is very powerful and very sad.Everything about this production is first-rate. The three hours pass veryquickly.While not everyone cares for Gilbert & Sullivan's comic operas, even ifyoudon't like them, this is well worth seeing.
This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (DVD) This movie served the purpose of being my introduction to Gilbert and Sullivan. Sad that it took so long to be introduced to them. I loved this movie. The story was great and the vocal performances were impressive. This is a movie I take down from the shelf every now and then and watch all over again. I laugh and smile and am entertained with every viewing.
This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (DVD) I've only one major complaint about Mike Leigh's 'Topsy Turvy'. At a bit under three hours in length, it's too short -- we don't want it to end! This is one of the best musical biographies extant -- its leisurely development lets you see into the life of the early performers of the Savoy Operas, and in the end, the film is as much about them as it is about Gilbert or Sullivan. We care for these characters, for their ambitions, for their insecurities and weaknesses. Under the perfect frivolity of the music lies frailty and anguish, and that's the strength of this film. The only weak link in the casting is in the role of George Grossmith, who lacks what must have been that character's extraordinary charisma, wit and charm. Grossmith's modern successors, notably John Reed and Dennis Olsen, are actor/singers who could claim the entire stage -- a stronger actor in this role would have claimed the entire film. But that's a minor quibble about a film so true to its subjects, so imbued with love for its characters.
I thought the film meandered needlessly at the beginning before getting a shot of adrenaline when Gilbert conceives his idea for The Mikado, which is hard to believe since Mike Leigh is usually quite economical with his films. But there are so many excellent scenes, especially during the 'rehearsals' portion of the film. And I like how the little obstacles that presented themselves in the staging of The Mikado did not pay off in an obvious fashion. When the light opera is performed with great aplomb and without a hitch, it is obvious that the actress with the bad leg and the actor with the morphine habit and the other actress with her bouts of depression are simply pros and that's that. No contrived complications. And I'm a sucker for this backstage type stuff to boot.
TOPSY-TURVY (1999) *** (out of four)By Blake French:There are a lot of characters in Mike Leigh's Oscar winning, whimsicalcomedy drama "Topsy-Turvy." There are also a lot of occurrences, musicalnumbers, personality conflicts, technical nuggets, and different point ofviews behind the scenes in the world of Broadway theater in the late 18thcentury. Too much happens in the movie-which in itself is much too long tohold our attention thoroughly during its unduly 160 minute running time.In the film we see many Broadway musical practices, some annoying. The moviedoesn't stay focused on one particular event, but wanders off in enoughdirections to make your head spin. This is not a movie about the preparationand presentation of a comic opera, but details the diminutive issues ofcostume design, staff dilemmas, casting judgments, sexuality, and rehearsal."Topsy-Turvy" really had me puzzled over its plot, if you can call it that,but at the same time it is passionate about the subject.Like a live theater production, these filmmakers must have spent endlesshours constructing the costumes, set designs, and musical pieces. I justwish they did it in a more consistently interesting way. Certain sequenceshit me as very intriguing, beautifully crafted and uncommonly absorbing.Others had me searching for the remote control to the VCR so I couldfast-forward the slow-paced, tedious filmmaking. A plot synopsis would be pointless; if you enjoy "Topsy-Turvy," it will notbe because of the profound, thought-provoking story, nor will it be thedaring edge of the film. It will be the production design and interest inthe material. If theater fascinates you, it is an interesting movie to see.I have personally been in several professional live theater productions, andcan say from experience this movie is accurate in many, many aspects. Hourscan be spent on a single moment; tireless practice can be put into a scenethat lasts only a few seemingly insignificant minutes, but the ending resultalways brings forth a deep, rewarding sensation of self gratitude, teamwork, and success. Mike Leigh is not the kind of director you might expect to make such aplayful production. His screen credits include the Oscar nominated "Secrets& Lies," as well as "Naked," and "Life is Sweet," but "Topsy-Turvy" provesto be of his most peculiar work. Many directors could have turned thismaterial into a sappy soap opera of conflicts and annoying characters, butLeigh gives each character a zestful, likable personality. The actors do amarvelous job at bringing to life some difficult roles: many of theperformers must play performers practicing for a performance.I guess the biggest question here is whether or not audiences need to befans of Gilbert and Sullivan to enjoy "Topsy-Turvy"? Many people are sayingno, because of the quality of the film. However, I am a fan of Broadway andfound this film to be very irksome during more than one occasion. My answeris absolutely. "Topsy-Turvy" is a movie intended for a very specificaudience, and if included in that audience you may find the movie veryappealing. You know who you are.
"Topsy Turvy" is as good as films get. No performance in it is anythingless than top notch, the direction is flawless and the script is, in myhumble opinion, a work of art. While it would be churlish to say thatit could be seen as a remake of such making-a-musical-show films as"42nd Street" or "A Chorus Line" or "All that Jazz" it so fartranscends the genre as to never be anything less than mesmerising.For me though, the true star of the film is nothing less than theEnglish language in all its precision and all its beauty. SeeingGilbert and Sullivan tearing bleeding shreds off each other in ado-or-die argument without raising their voices, or swearing, or evendeviating from the point is breathtaking and inspiring in this age ofinstant foul language and fisticuffs. Seeing the rest of the large castdoing exactly the same thing too, is a glorious window onto a vanishedculture. If you love the English language, films don't get any better.If you love actual, dead set, real acting,"Topsy Turvy" isbreathtaking.
I was hooked from the beginning on this film. I love theater and watchinghow Gilbert and Sullivan came up with "the Mikado" (tho I don't know howmuch of the story was truth) was great. The only bad part was not wrappingup what happened to some of the other characters you see. Otherwise it wasreally good.
This review is from: Topsy-Turvy (DVD) This was highlighted in Wall Street Journal and could not get it as a rental. It is slightly boring.
If you don't like Gilbert and Sullivan, you should avoid TOPSY-TURVY; clocking in at about two hours and forty minutes, it would probably be a torturous experience. For everyone else, however, I give this movie my highest recommendation. TOPSY-TURVY concerns itself with a period during which Gilbert and Sullivan find themselves at a professional impasse. Their inability to agree on a suitable story for collaboration eventually leads to their most popular operetta, "The Mikado." Director Mike Leigh's object, however, is to tell the story behind the story; he lets us peek into the professional and personal lives of Sullivan, Gilbert, and the D'Oyly Carte Company. Jim Broadbent anchors the film with his tremendous performance as W.S. Gilbert; he is infuriating and arrogant, yet plagued with self doubt and even occasionally gentle. Alan Cordeneur does well as Arthur Sullivan, yet his performance is less involving and we don't get to know him that well; but perhaps that was the point. Leslie Manville is quite touching as Gilbert's long suffering wife, Kitty. The D'Oyly Carte performers are played with just the right combination of humanity and theatricality; in particular, Timothy Spall as Richard Temple (bewildered and hurt that his role as the Mikado might be whittled to almost nothing!) and Dorothy Atkinson, charming and alluring as Jessie Bond, are outstanding. There are generous musical excerpts from "The Mikado," "The Sorcerer," "Princess Ida," and Sullivan's non-Gilbert music. There is so much more worth praising in TOPSY-TURVY, but instead I'll just close by saying: DON'T MISS IT!
I admit I had NO USE for Gilbert & Sullivan's work until I rented "Topsy-Turvy". Then, I had to have the DVD! This movie has so many excellent performances, so much enchanting music, and such a great story that I became a "believer". I honestly cannot say that one major character outshines another because the film is so rich in first-rate acting. There may be a few folks out there who won't be "converted" by seeing this film, but I'll bet there are more who are. After you see it, you be surfing the internet for EVERYTHING G&S!
I love Mike Leigh films, but this one was extremely long and very boring. I sat through about 75% of the film before giving up. It was desperately in need of editing. I give it two stars for the beautiful sets and costumes. If you love G&S, and I do not, you may find it enjoyable. However, if you love the realism of films like 'Naked' and 'Career Girls', you may want to steer clear of this one.
For an old lady who grew up on Gilbert and Sullivan, this film is just a trip to the moon on gossamar wings! A film that just shines - full of humor, irony, wit, and glorious music. Corduner was marvelous as the ecentric Sullivan but in my book, Jim Broadbent stole the show in the more subtle presentation of the complex Gilbert. He deserved the Oscar. But just as amazing, I've never seen any film in which ALL the supporting players were so perfect, so strong.Bravo to the casting director - not one slip. I've seen TT in the theatre, saw it on a video screener, and DVD - DVD is the way to go. Some of the dialogue was lost on screen and VCR - but on DVD - every word was clear. This is a great film - I just wish young people would try it to discover the great Gilbert and Sullivan.