Pointing to a new direction, Christopher Munch’s Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day is an eloquent tribute to the obsession of one man to revive the defunct Yosemite Valley Railroad.
At the end of WWII, Chinese-American John Lee (Peter Alexander), who works at repairing trolley cars, breaks with his family over his singleminded determination to revive service on the YVR, a 78-mile-line scheduled to be scrapped. He secures backing from a financier to run the railroad for a year, a heroic mission, inevitably doomed due to the rising popularity of cars.
Lee’s Chinese grandfather, who came over to lay track, provides a personal tie to railway history. Forced to carry the banner alone, Lee is consumed with passion to materialize his dream. With a minimalist, undernourished script, stilted dialogue and ambiguous sexuality, Munch exalts, but doesn’t illuminate John’s fervor.
Lavishly shot in black and white by Rob Sweeney, in a style that suggests Ansel Adams’ photographs, the movie fails to register the excitement that must have informed its protagonist’s zeal.