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Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day (1996)

| Drama | 2 May 1997 (USA)
The Yosemite Valley Railroad, which runs through the breathtaking scenery and stunning vistas of the Merced River Canyon to its terminus at El Portal outside Yosemite National Park, is on ... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Peter Alexander ...
Jeri Arredondo ...
Jonah Bauer
Angela (as Bok Yun Chon)
David Chung ...
Mr. Lee
Diana Larkin ...
Corine Lorain ...
Mrs. Lee (as Corinne Lorain)
Joan Newmark ...
Mrs. Hopper
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Alan Boyce ...
John's Lawyer
Tom Challis ...
Drunken Sailor
Susanne Columbia ...
Michael K. Hall ...
Mr. Donner


The Yosemite Valley Railroad, which runs through the breathtaking scenery and stunning vistas of the Merced River Canyon to its terminus at El Portal outside Yosemite National Park, is on the brink of failure. The grandson of a Chinese railroad laborer embarks on a romantic, but ultimately doomed, quest to save this railroad from being sold for scrap. His love of trains finds him working as a railroad-man, instead of at his father's profitable business. He manages to locate a wealthy eccentric investor to help him acquire the railroad, but its financial inviability makes this a quixotic reprieve, at best. The film also portrays the anti-Asian racism present in America at the conclusion of World War II. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

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Release Date:

2 May 1997 (USA)  »

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1.85 : 1
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For anyone who sees value where others don't
10 April 2005 | by (Lubbock, TX) – See all my reviews

This is among the most beautiful films of the last decade, in more ways than one. I was lucky enough to see the film once in the theater. I wanted to own a copy. It was a long time coming to DVD but I recently learned that it was finally available, and so I purchased a copy. The absolutely extraordinary cinematography by Rob Sweeney doesn't hit you on a TV screen with quite the same punch that it does on a full sized theater screen, but even so, first time viewers should still get a good sense of just how visually exceptional this movie is. The movie has many virtues, the greatest of which is probably its look. Even when showing us ordinary domestic details the black and white photography has a luminous, magical, dream-like quality that is magnified all the more when the camera turns to the natural spectacle of Yosemite park where most of the movie is set. Not only does the texture of the imagery make you want to bathe your soul in it, but every frame, without exception, is as beautifully composed as any produced by the great directors and cinematographers of the 30s and 40s. Additionally, the movie integrates documentary footage from the late 40s with seamless technical facility. Aside from the look of the film, the story movingly follows the obsessive dream of a young man who tries to rescue a defunct pre-World War II short-line railroad. His effort arises partly from his interest in engineering, partly from what he seems to view as a proper way to live in the world, and partly from his grandfather's experience as an early railway laborer. His story is bound to touch anyone whose obsessions (professional or aesthetic) have ever been viewed with distrust or contempt by those around him, anyone who has found value in something others reject, and anyone who does not necessarily believe that all progress is good progress. That he fails in his mission is inevitable; that the inevitability of his failure seemed clear from the start, perhaps even to him, only makes his story more moving. Other interesting elements of the movie include the relationship of the main character with a loner (Michael Stipe) that gently hints at the blurred lines between friendship, professional association, and sublimated romance. The movie's matter-of-fact presentation of late-40s bigotry directed at Asian-Americans is yet another of its uncommon background elements. If you want some sort of fast-paced action, or a plot that tells you exactly what you should think, look elsewhere. If you want an exceptional example of visual storytelling that integrates the historical and the personal and is rich in ambiguities, you can hardly do better than "The Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day."

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