Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day

Director: Christopher Munch
Screenwriters: Christopher Munch

Institute History


Haunting, lyrical, and painfully beautiful, Christopher Münch’s Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day is the powerfully allegorical story of a young man’s dogged determination to save a railroad so important to his youth and the youth of a nation. When twenty-three-year-old John Lee (the intense and focused Peter Alexander) learns that the Yosemite Valley Railroad is being scrapped, he yearns to save it. An ardent fanatic, John has railroading in his blood since his grandfather emigrated to the United States to work as a laborer on the first transcontinental.

John arranges financing through a wealthy railroad businessman, Pinchot, then installs himself as general manager. In this way, he befriends Yosemite Valley’s superintendent, Robinson (Henry Gibson), and the younger, quiet traffic manager, Skeeter (played by Michael Stipe in his feature film debut). Together they must make the railroad turn a profit within a year or lose their precarious financing. Although John is a dreamer with a passion for changing the fate of the railroad, he is distracted by the girl next door, Angela (Bok Yun Chon), and the fiery and opinionated Nancy (Jeri Arredondo), and the railroad begins a downward spiral which cannot be reversed.

Inspired by a true story, Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day weaves several threads into a mesmerizing tapestry: It is about the loss of innocence and the experience of an Asian-American man confronted with the unstoppable course of history. It is also about determination but, in a radical departure from traditional Algeresque outlooks, it focuses on the ability to fail, to deal with rejection even as awareness blossoms. Christopher Münch directs his actors with great care, and cinematographer Rob Sweeney captures them in a sumptuous black-and-white world of railroad platforms, roundhouses and depots mysteriously absent of passengers. One is left to assume that they must be enjoying the beauty of the Yosemite Valley from the convenience of their new motor cars.

— Christian Gaines

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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