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Christopher Munch's "Letters from the Big Man"

"Munch has made a film that, in lesser hands, would have been little more than Old Joy meets Trog."

"In five features over two decades Christopher Munch has cultivated a singular career on the margins of the independent film world," begins Dennis Lim in the New York Times. "Although his debut, The Hours and Times (1991), was grouped with the emerging New Queer Cinema, Mr Munch, 49, has never fit in with a movement, and it's hard to think of another working American filmmaker with a similar sensibility or array of interests."

Writing in Filmmaker, Howard Feinstein suggests that Munch "explores that chaotic region where two forms of desire butt up against each other: the wish for a more perfect world, for one, usually depicted as majestic nature and whatever beauty man might have put into it (the old, deserted railroad in Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day [1996]) — an American version of classic German Romanticism, or blood and soil when taken to a nationalist extreme; and two, the physical attraction of one living being toward another. The latter might be a gay man's unrequited feelings toward a disinterested straight man (The Hours and Times), or even two brothers for each other (Harry and Max [2004]). In the case of the female protagonist of Letters from the Big Man, the magnetism is more complex. She feels sexual desire for a man and, accompanying the allure of painfully gorgeous landscapes, a much more ethereal yearning for the Sasquatch, the large, hairy, nearly invisible forest animal referred to pejoratively as Bigfoot."

Also in Filmmaker, Damon Smith segues into his interview with Munch: "So often turned into grist for B-movie schlock horror, the Bigfoot legend becomes a thing of bewitching beauty in Munch's fable (the film stayed with me for weeks after I saw it at Sundance), as his low-key, equable approach to such potentially absurd material makes Sarah's transformative inner journey both enthralling and emotionally plausible. Rob Sweeney's almost surreally fantastic shots of the verdant Oregon landscapes are a treat in themselves, providing the perfect visual complement to the film's eco allegory about the age-old conflict of man versus nature. Only an artist with Munch's preternatural gifts could have pulled it all off."

Melissa Anderson, writing for Artforum, agrees: "Munch has made a film that, in lesser hands, would have been little more than Old Joy meets Trog." In a similar vein, Mark Holcomb (Voice), finds that Letters from the Big Man "in some ways recalls a more grounded Uncle Boonmee or a less cheesy Trollhunter." The odd man out, Time Out New York's Keith Uhlich, finds the film to be "lamentably scattershot."

"A strong presence strongly played by Lily Rabe, Sarah, a former United States Forest Service employee, is the type of independent woman who, in American cinema, has moved off the threatened and onto the endangered list," writes Manohla Dargis in the NYT. "Through many miles, narrative switchbacks, a drib of politics, a drab of shamanism, she and the Big Man develop a beautiful friendship…. The sasquatch in Letters from the Big Man, a beguiling, Buddha-like figure who occasionally enjoys a wild-thing tantrum, offers Sarah — starving, the movie suggests, like the rest of us — companionship of a type, as well as a new, moving way of being. As the story unwinds, Mr Munch piles on the plot, mixing in romance, American Indian mythology, environmental fights and a government conspiracy that would be narratively unsustainable if his generosity toward his characters, his seriousness and faith in his story, didn't make it all seem perfectly reasonable."

At the IFC Center in New York through Thursday. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @thedailyMUBI on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.

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