50 Years of the New York Film Festival

NYFF ‘99: Topsy-Turvy

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NYFF ‘99: Topsy-Turvy
Mike Leigh, 1999
UK | Format: 35mm | 160 minutes

Although best known for his kitchen-sink portraits of the British middle and working classes, seven-time Oscar nominee and nine-time NYFF veteran Mike Leigh delivered arguably his masterpiece with this lavish, one-of-a-kind backstage musical about the creation of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s 1885 opera, The Mikado. Despite the atypical story and setting, however, Leigh once again devised the film in his patented improvisational method, working intensively with the actors (including the brilliant Jim Broadbent as Gilbert, Allan Corduner as Sullivan, and Timothy Spall as G&S muse Richard Temple) over a six-month rehearsal process to develop their characters, the narrative and an understanding of the period. The result is an uncannily perceptive and acutely personal film about the hard work of artistic creation, capped by a glorious staging of The Mikado itself featuring Oscar-winning costumes and makeup.

“A mesmerizing, hugely satisfying tale reminiscent of the grand let's-put-on-a-show Hollywood musical tradition.”
--NYFF37 program note

“Sublime...Topsy-Turvy reminds us that, in any age, creative expression is at once the most personal and most communal of enterprises.”
--Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

“This is not only Mike Leigh's strongest film since Naked but a true show-making epic. The Mikado may be second-rate popular art but Topsy-Turvy is a terrific popular movie—it can be bracketed with Nashville and Children of Paradise and, as a celebration of human enterprise, it is richer and more fully realized than either.”
--J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

Images courtesy of THIN MAN/GREENLIGHT / THE KOBAL COLLECTION

Series: 50 Years of the New York Film Festival

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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