Fine-grained memories about friends cling to me, like sugar on the end of my fingertip. Tiny white dots form a small pattern that speaks to a larger system, an innate mechanism that helps defines their character. For director Jordan Kim, it was his attention to detail. "I spent way too much time on this," he bashfully admitted, opening up a window on his computer in 2004. I was looking at a poster for Bicentennial Man 2, Kim's harder-edged sequel to the wholesome Chris Columbus film featuring Robin Williams as a robot Pinocchio. Adding an intricate, gold cybernetic visor to his face and draping him in a trench coat while an oppressive, Gibsonesque megalopolis in coral pink towered over this new, hardened detective incarnation of the former cyborg butler, Kim confessed to me he should’ve spent his evenings in a more constructive way. Yet, whether it was goofing around or getting down to the business of directing, his impishly subversive dedication to calibrating each element of his vision applied to both the frivolous and more cinematic of pursuits.
Whether it’s his hauntingly beautiful and playful homage to Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu in his Vimeo Staff Picked music video for Toro y Moi, or the cackle of live that vibrates through each magical sidewalk crack in Clara, Kim is still just as fastidiously attending to his craft as he was when I first met him at San Francisco State University almost fourteen years ago. Clara is a deceptively innocent fairy tale full of big bad man-children in wolves' clothing, envious magic spells and jaded princesses of Silverlake locked away in the shadows of their condos. The film hums with softness and humor though, stimulated by a glowing performance from Hannah Kasulka as the timid, titular witch, brimming with hysterical coiled menace that springs loose in hilarious bursts along her winding journey through the banal enchantment of a Los Angeles-esque city dream. I won’t spoil the plot, describing it would be nearly as fruitless as describing the details of Kim’s Bicentennial Man 2 poster again. Just watch this. Pour yourself a hot cup of tea and absorb the patterns that form. There’s magic in them too.
Visit Jordan Kim and see more his work on Vimeo. And be sure to catch his nimble editing work on Portlandia.