By Don Simpson | March 26, 2012
Director: Kentucker Audley
Writers: Kentucker Audley, Genevieve Angelson, Shannon Esper, Jake Rabinbach
Starring: Jake Rabinbach, Shannon Esper, Kentucker Audley, Genevieve Angelson, Amy Seimetz, Caroline White
It is nighttime on a New York City fire escape. Jake (Jake Rabinbach) — who is visiting NYC after having just broken up with his girlfriend Lynn (Amy Seimetz) back in Memphis — is on the fire escape with his new romantic interest, Lucy (Shannon Esper). Jake attempts to persuade Lucy to visit his house in Memphis. Lucy has a difficult time declining, but she is equally hesitant to accept Jake’s offer.
Time passes, and eventually Lucy takes Jake up on that offer; but she shows up in Memphis with her friend Rose (Genevieve Angelson), which is clearly not a good sign for Jake. Yes, Lucy is using Rose as a shield to protect her from diving headfirst into a long-distance relationship with Jake; but Jake is not looking for a serious relationship, he just wants to live in the moment and have some fun. Luckily for Jake, Lucy is fairly uncertain about what she wants and she has a difficult time resisting his slacker-cum-hipster-esque charm.
From there, Open Five seamlessly blends reality and fiction. Lucy and Rose are both struggling actresses in Brooklyn. Jake is also an aspiring “artistic type,” he is the lead singer of a band (though he pays his rent by cleaning houses). Jake’s friend Kentucker (Kentucker Audley) is a micro-budget filmmaker. It seems as though the four primary characters might be loosely based upon the reality of the actors; just as the characters appear to exist in the real world, surrounded by real people in authentic settings. (At times, Open Five functions as an underground tour of Memphis that is briefly dragged above ground during a foray in Graceland.) Even if that is not even remotely true, the unbridled naturalism of their performances and dialogue — as well as the cinéma vérité cinematography (Joe Swanberg) — leads us to believe otherwise.
As Jake and Lucy’s relationship comes apart at the seams; Rose and Kentucker begin to spend time together. Open Five navigates these dying and budding romances. Long distance and open relationships are dismissed and considered; but, no matter what, you can rest assured that the love will always be a fleeting one. The figurative ghosts of ex-girlfriends weigh heavily upon the situations, as do the much more literal boyfriends back home. Among other things, Open Five is about the ebb and flow of relationships; the push and pull, the inability to commit to the present teamed with the unshakable attraction to the past.
The greatest strengths of Open Five are found in its presentation: the meandering narrative structure, the breathing room of the scenes, the prioritization of events (or non-events). Kentucker Audley’s poetic approach to narrative filmmaking is nothing short of anti-Hollywood. His minimalist, micro-budget (no budge) cinema is propagated by footage that would never make the final cut of a modern Hollywood production; heck, it would never even grace the cutting room floor. Audley does, however, utilize some traditional cinematic conventions to his advantage. For example, close-ups are juxtaposed with long shots in order to communicate the ever-changing emotional distance of the characters. The cinematic formalities and contrivances of that classic visual storytelling technique are cleverly shrouded by the guise of the vérité lensing. In a similar vein, the scripted dialogue rolls off of the actors’ tongues with such fluid naturalism that it all seems totally improvised. In other words, Open Five tricks us into believing it is much more haphazard and off the cuff than it really is; there is definitely a rhyme and/or reason to everything that we see and hear.
Open Five enjoyed a very successful film festival run in 2010 — highlighted by Richard Brody’s praising of Open Five in the New Yorker. On March 30th, Audley and Paper Moon Films released Open Five via a very limited edition Deluxe DVD package, as well as digital download and online streaming.