Die Hard and Topsy-Turvy: Part 1

If Die Hard is the best action movie ever (which it is), Topsy-Turvy is the best historical drama ever.

It may seem odd to compare such content-different movies, but they share three remarkable similarities (other than both being rated "R"):

1. Both movies focus on a single story.

Die Hard is about a guy who rescues a building from terrorist-like bank robbers. Topsy-Turvy is about two guys who put on a comic opera, specifically The Mikado.

Neither movie loses sight of its central concept and both are nearly seamless in delivering that main concept/idea despite other stuff impinging on the plot: husband and wife having marital troubles, artisans wanting more money per performance,  composer wishing to write a grand opera, fellow cop scarred by shooting an unarmed civilian.

Topsy-Turvy is especially impressive here. Topsy-Turvy is about as meta as a historical drama can get without breaking the fourth wall. It is a modern director telling the biography of a historical composer and librettist while having said historical personages put on a nineteenth-century version of a nineteenth-century-created comic opera using modern actors and actresses who are playing real personages as well as characters.

So Martin Savage is playing Grossmith playing an admiral, a sorcerer, and a Japanese executioner (amongst other roles).

On top of all the meta, Mike Leigh is also exploring Gilbert's and Sullivan's personal lives, the technological advances of the nineteenth century, class in the nineteenth century, the life of the actor/actress, how to rehearse lines, and the running of the Savoy Theatre.

Leigh directing actors whose characters are directed by
Jim Broadbent as Gilbert.
Movies that attempt to do story-in-a-wider-context often collapse under their own weight OR skimp on everything, producing a "huh" reaction from the viewer. Invictus, which I quite like, just fails to convey the life-of-Nelson-Mandela-through-the-eyes-of-rugby (but is fun to watch anyway). The Imitation Game partly succeeds at World War II-(or computers? or being gay?)-through-Turing's-experience but loses sight of its thesis (note the question marks) at about the 2/3rds mark (but is worth watching for the sake of Cumberbatch).

And yet Topsy-Turvy, like Die Hard, never loses sight of its objective. Topsy-Turvy goes every so slightly wobbly maybe twice but  its wobbliness is barely noticeable. Like in Die Hard, the ultimate point is never sacrificed to more alluring possibilities like scandal or domestic troubles or news reporting, however much those things touch on the plot. Getting The Mikado produced from the initial inspiration to the final achievement (or getting the hostages rescued and the bad guys stopped) is the point, and the point never faileth.

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