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In 1884, as a London heat wave cuts into the theater trade, Gilbert and Sullivan's latest work, "Princess Ida," receives lukewarm press. Sullivan rejects Gilbert's next idea as "topsy-turvy" and unbelievable, and although Gilbert tries to accomodate him, they cannot agree. Mired at a creative impasse, Gilbert and Sullivan can barely converse. Then, Gilbert's wife, Lucy "Kitty" Gilbert, drags him along to a Japanese exhibition--exposure to the very different culture begins inspiration to embark on the production of "The Mikado."
For more about Topsy-Turvy and the Topsy-Turvy Blu-ray release, see Topsy-Turvy Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 15, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Mike Leigh (I)
Writer: Mike Leigh (I)
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, Lesley Manville, Eleanor David, Ron Cook, Timothy Spall
» See full cast & crew
Topsy-Turvy Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 15, 2011
Winner of Oscar Awards for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup, Mike Leigh's "Topsy-Turvy" (1999) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer and TV spots; audio commentary with director Mike Leigh; deleted scenes; exclusive video interview with director Mike Leigh and music director Gary Yershon; "A Sense of History", a short film written by Jim Broadbent and directed by Mike Leigh; and a standard featurette. The disc also arrives with an 18-page illustrated booklet. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy tells two stories. The first is about the production history of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's beloved opera The Mikado. The second is about Gilbert and Sullivan's unusual partnership.
The film is effectively divided into two parts. In the first we see Gilbert (Jim Broadbent, Iris, Moulin Rouge!) and Sullivan (Allan Corduner, The Grey Zone) trying to recover after the disastrous reception of their latest opera, Princess Ida. Both have different ideas how this must be done and are absolutely unwilling to compromise. Naturally, during a rather unpleasant meeting with their impresario, Richard D'Oyly Carte (Ron Cook, Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980), Sullivan suggests that it is time that they finally end their partnership.
Gilbert and his wife Kitty (Lesley Manville, All or Nothing), however, end up visiting a fancy Japanese exhibition in London that proves inspirational - in less than a week, The Mikado is scripted and Sullivan invited to express an opinion. Much to Gilbert's satisfaction, Sullivan proclaims that The Mikado has the potential to be something special. After some enthusiastic fine-tuning, a raw version of the opera is presented to D'Oyley Carte, who agrees to invest in it.
The second part of the film is comprised of various episodes in which Gilbert is seen selecting and working with the cast and Sullivan rehearsing with the orchestra. In the process plenty of egos are hurt and unkind words spoken, but at the The Mikado is staged at the Savoy Theatre.
Leigh's Topsy-turvy is not a strictly biographical film. In it facts and fantasy continuously overlap and it is next to impossible to tell where the former end and the latter begin. But it does not matter because Leigh's objective was to reconstruct the atmosphere that preceded the staging of The Mikado, not chronicle the exact events that inspired it. The film succeeds in doing precisely that - it gives one the opportunity to experience the ruthless, chaotic and often bizarre world Gilbert and Sullivan shared.
The film has a light and friendly tone, but it is remarkably cynical and uncompromising in its depiction of Gilbert and Sullivan's personas. Leigh recognizes and admires their genius but at the same time slams their ethics and working methods, which often times have an enormously demoralizing effect on the people they interact with.
Though brilliantly directed, choreographed and acted, the film isn't easy to like. It takes a very long time to get used to its quirkiness. Also, a lot of its cleverness has a tendency to quickly devolve into pretentiousness that is incredibly difficult to endure.
Leigh's best films are modern films about real people dealing with real issues. He likes turning his protagonists into caricatures, which he then likes defending, in his own way, because the environment they share has turned them into defenseless victims. In Topsy-Turvy Leigh lets the main protagonists - Gilbert, Sullivan, and the stars in the D'Oyley Carte Opera Company - roam free. It is his way of exposing the ruthlessness and maximalist aesthetic of the Victorian era.
Note: In 2000, Topsy-Turvy won Oscar Awards for Best Costume Design (Lindy Hemming) and Best Makeup (Christine Blundell and Trefor Proud).
Topsy-Turvy Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in Mike Leigh's preferred aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Topsy-Turvy arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Supervised by cinematographer Dick Pope and approved by director Mike Leigh, this new digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine in 2K resolution from a 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisors: Dick Pope, Vishal Chathle/Universal Studios, Los Angeles; Maria Palazzola. Telecine colorist: Doug Drake/Universal Studios, Los Angeles."
I don't have the now out of print R1 SDVD release of Topsy-Turvy in my library to compare it to this new Blu-ray release, but I cannot possibly imagine anyone not being thrilled with it - the film looks splendid in 1080p. Detail is consistently excellent, even during the darker scenes, while clarity is outstanding. Color reproduction is very convincing, and I must speculate that this is probably the key area where this release convincingly outdoes the old R1 SDVD release of Topsy-Turvy. Indeed, the variety of reds, browns, grays, and blacks look remarkably healthy and natural. Furthermore, I did not see any traces of heavy noise reduction; a healthy layer of light grain is present at all times. This being said, I noticed that light sharpening has been applied during specific scenes (the sharpening is most obvious during close-ups), but none of it affects dramatically the integrity of the presentation. Finally, there are absolutely no stability issues to report in this review. I also did not see any annoying scratches, large damage marks, stains, or debris. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Topsy-Turvy Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The surround track was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated audio workstation."
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is excellent. Andrew Dickson score benefits greatly from the loseless treatment; the dialog and the singing are always crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. I also did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Topsy-Turvy Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Topsy-Turvy Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Topsy-Turvy is a witty, brilliantly directed film, but it is not one of my favorite Mike Leigh's films. Its eccentricity and dry sense of humor are often times overpowering, bordering pretentiousness I've always had a difficult time tolerating. I prefer the British director's contemporary films, and specifically Naked, Secrets & Lies, and All or Nothing. It would be great if they also made it to Blu-ray. As expected, Criterion's Blu-ray release of Topsy-Turvy looks and sounds terrific. RECOMMENDED.
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Topsy-Turvy Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Starts "Three Reasons" Blu-ray Trailers - January 29, 2011
The Criterion Collection is now creating short "Three Reasons" trailers for selected upcoming Blu-ray titles from that label. Each expresses three reasons why, in Criterion's opinion, the film featured is a must-see. The first up are for Sweet Smell of Success ...
• Criterion Blu-ray in March: Epstein, Leigh, Malle, Schertzinger, ... - December 16, 2010
The Criterion Collection has announced five titles for Blu-ray release in March. On March 15, the independent studio will release two acclaimed international titles: the deeply personal drama Au revoir les enfants (Louis Malle, 1987) and the family epic Yi Yi (Edward ...
Topsy-Turvy Blu-ray Screenshots
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