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Topsy Turvy  

Starring: Allan Corduner, Jim Broadbent, Dexter Fletcher, Sukie Smith, Roger Heathcott, Wendy Nottingham Directed by: Mike Leigh Written by: Mike Leigh Rated R, for a scene of risque nudity Running Time: 2 hours, 41 minutes Released by USA Films

Mike Leigh's "Topsy-Turvy" is a film that carries on a love affair with its subject matter. Anyone can appreciate a final product, but true passion lies in the details. The latest effort from the acclaimed director of "Secrets and Lies" is chock full of details, making it a passionate look inside the collaborative efforts of Gilbert and Sullivan during their endeavor to bring the operetta "The Mikado" to the London stage.

 

Sir Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) is growing tired of composing the routine yet popular operettas being housed at the Savoy Theatre. It is these very productions that he has become famous for, yet the gifted composer desires to write a truly magnificent opera and thus believes his talents cannot be drained any more by the same old operettas. He expresses his frustrations that his collaborator, William S. Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) is repeating the same themes in each of his bodies of work. The two men are at an impasse.

That is, until Gilbert gets his creative juices flowing after witnessing a Japanese exhibition on display in London. Soon he gives birth to the idea that reunites the two masterminds and results in one of their greatest triumphs.

The movie takes its time in showing us the details involved in bringing "The Mikado" to life. We gets lengthy sequences involving line-readings and rehearsals of musical numbers. There is also a scene where we are witness to the actors' objections to some of the loose-fitting costume pieces which "push the envelope" of the time. It is Leigh's attention to the details that expresses his passion for the subject, and also gives the movie added texture and beauty. Dick Pope's cinematography and Eve Stewart's production design combine to make the film rich in visuals - at times it practically dances off the screen.

The performances carry the same kind of passion, especially Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner. They are flawless in embodying the two collaborative geniuses. We can see how their work commanded the respect of those involved with the production, and also how having to work with either man can kill - as one of the characters aptly observes.

At two hours and forty-one minutes, it is not a tightly constructed story - but when a filmmaker is in love with his material as much as Leigh is here, there isn't any rush to get to the conclusion. At a time when so many movies are haphazardly spit out of an assembly line, it is quite refreshing to see a film which houses a passionate fire whose flame ignites the story and makes it glow.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney Critically Ill

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