5 years ago it seemed that the entire creative community rediscovered stop-motion animation. Suddenly it was everywhere, the pixilated Her Morning Elegance video serving as the movement’s flashpoint, spawning a million commercial rip-offs and DiY MV odes, complementing the continued output of European fine art animators bolstered by National Film Boards.
It has been a diverse and varied renaissance, but in the creative vanguard has been Kirsten Lepore. Kirsten, with her exquisite, internet-developed taste, brought novel and wonderfully moving narrative stop-motion filmmaking into the online space, a pair of viral narrative shorts, Sweet Dreams & Bottle, cementing her legacy.
It’s been a long 3-4 years since Bottle however, and the cultural enthusiasm for the form has slowly diminished. While new commercial work from Lepore would occasionally surface, we’ve been left wanting something more meaty, a full-throated refutation of the idea that stop-motion is somehow a “fad”.
Well, want no more, Move Mountain is here. Lepore’s MA graduation film from CalArts, the film is a technical doozy. A massive constructed set, large numbers of moving characters and background elements, the film is a huge step forward in craft while preserving the distinctive character and clever elements of her earlier, simpler films.
While the film vaults Lepore into an upper echelon of independent stop-motion practitioners, as a storyteller it sadly fails to live up to the lofty standards of Bottle, which was, of course, a near perfect short. Similarly simplistic, Lepore conjures a mythic setting, but the character motivation is more muddled, and thus investment in her journey is lacking.
As art however, similar to our recent pick Eager, Move Mountain is a bold statement for the continuing relevance of stop-motion. The night-time rave sequence starting at 4:36 is brilliant for reasons beyond even its fun easter egg cast of notable short film animation characters. It is a vast undertaking to make a stop-motion film and we need to enjoy this, as it is unclear if Lepore, no longer in school, will have the ability to embark on project of this scale anytime soon. Indeed, I’m going to leave to watch the film again right now!