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The BBC's Tom Brook in New York
"Mike Leigh remains one of Britain's most vibrant and gifted film-makers"
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Monday, 10 January, 2000, 12:25 GMT
Leigh's Topsy-Turvy triumphs

Double success for Topsy-Turvy director Mike Leigh

British film director Mike Leigh has celebrated a double victory in the US after scooping awards from two of the country's most prestigious critics groups for his latest movie Topsy-Turvy.

Leigh's epic movie about the Victorian composers Gilbert and Sullivan won the best film of the year award and best director prizes from both the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Topsy-Turvy shared top honours with the US picture Being John Malkovich at the 34th National Society of Film Critics on Saturday.

Topsy-Turvy features the music and song of Gilbert and Sulivan
On Sunday, the 56-year-old director received his two trophies from the New York Critics Film Circle.

The director, who is better known for making gritty, British-based black comedies such as Secrets & Lies and Naked, said he was very pleased that the judges had noticed his new and different venture.

"It's great that what I perceive to be a sophisticated bunch - as these New York critics are - have chosen to be positive about Topsy-Turvy," he said.

Leigh's 'greatest film'

But the maverick director added that, despite the film's song and dance, it wasn't so unlike his usual work.

"If you scrape away the tiniest top surface, you'll find a regular Mike Leigh film in there. Having said that I wanted to do a period film. I wanted to do a film about 'us' - we that make showbusiness."

Broadbent won the Best Actor award at 1999's Venice Film Festival for Topsy-Turvy
The New York Film Critics have long been champions of Mike Leigh's work. And even with his apparent change of direction, Topsy-Turvy clearly struck the right note.

The group's chairman, Owen Gleiberman, was full of praise: "I never would have expected Mike Leigh to make a period piece and one that is really so kind to the upper classes.

"But people grow and they surprise you and I think he has grown as an artist - I think it is his greatest film," he enthused.

Topsy Turvy depicts a late period in the careers of Sir Arthur Sullivan and W S Gilbert.

It stars British actors Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner in a colourful and vibrant screenplay. During filming, the two leads had to largely improvise as they worked without the benefit of a formal script.

Oscar hopes

The critics' awards will give the film, and its director, a boost in the annual scramble for the coveted Oscars.

This year, the race is said to be unusually wide-open with no clear front-runners. But Topsy-Turvy now stands a chance of gaining nominations.

Brenda Blethyn starred in Leigh's Oscar-hopeful Secrets & Lies
Speaking at Sunday night's ceremony, Leigh said he hoped that he might stand a good chance of winning.

Nethertheless, he added that, after his 1996 Oscar disappointment over his film Secret & Lies, he preferred to approach the annual jamboree with an attitude of restraint.

"With Secrets & Lies we had five nominations and we walked away empty-handed, so I am philosophical.

"If it happens great but if it doesn't, well there are plenty of great films out there and it will happen to someone."

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See also:
17 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Awards for Leigh's Topsy-Turvy
12 Sep 99 |  Entertainment
Film festival honours UK actor

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