"Thus open the gates of paradise."

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Topsy Turvy

06 Apr 2002

I'd like to start with a display of my staggering ignorance. Here's the sum total of my knowledge about Gilbert and Sullivan before seeing this movie:

  1. There were two men called Gilbert and Sullivan
  2. They worked together to create a number of operettas.
  3. One of those operettas was called "The Mikado".
  4. In "The Flintstones", Fred and Barney belonged to the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo, whose head was called "The Grand Poo-bah." I believe that is a reference to "The Mikado" which contained a character of the same name.
  5. The word "operetta" is often the solution to the clue "Gilbert and Sullivan's musical contributions" in the Globe & Mail's Saturday crossword puzzle (it was used for 2 weeks running last month).

Two university degrees and over thirty years of good, solid book-learning went into the accumulation of these five points. My younger readers would be good to mark them well.

After seeing the film, I feel confident on a couple of other points:

6. Mike Leigh is a big G&S fan.

7. Jim Broadbent is one of the most underappreciated actors. (He plays Gilbert).

8. Such meticulous attention to detail in sets and costumes I have not seen in ages and ages.

9. Anyone who is themselves involved in the theatre will love this film.

Unfortunately, I do not fall into the category in #9 above. Or #6 for that matter. And so, while somewhat entertaining, the film was a bit of a disappointment for me, expecting as I was, two hours of the unflinching sort of character study that is the meat and potatoes of his earlier films. Instead, "Topsy Turvy" relies heavily on spectacle and gives you quite a bit of the Mikado itself. Which is fine if you're #6 or #9, but otherwise, it left me craving a screening of "Naked" or "Career Girls".

"Laughter, tears, curtain."

Related Sites

Topsy Turvy (IMDB)
Official Web Site