Underground Film Journal

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Short Film: When I Get Back From Massachusetts

By Mike Everleth ⋅ December 5, 2011

Can home movies be considered art? Filmmaker Zach Iannazzi transforms some homemade fishing and hunting films from 1952 into an artistic piece with When I Get Back From Massachusetts. A group of manly outdoorsmen paddle upstream for a guys-only trip to catch some fresh water fish and take down a couple of bucks to tie their trunks on the drive back. With what appears to be minimal editing, but accompanied by a disorienting soundtrack, the film is a hyperreal journey to a different time and a different world.

The film is literally launched with a boat launch made by a bunch of anonymous men into the river. Immediately, we are thrown into a confusing landscape with nighttime cinematography where not much makes sense visually. But, Iannazzi scores these flashing images of trees and water with the ultra-crisp and clear sounds of birds chirping. The wildlife sounds are startlingly authentic, connecting us with the environment we cannot see.

The men, i.e. the “stars” of the film, are then made known to us as they relax playing card games the night before their big day of fishing and hunting.

When they finally get to the business of catching prey the next day, the actual film is, like the soundtrack, surprisingly ultra-crisp and clear as if the celluloid has been perfectly preserved since the footage was shot nearly 60 years earlier. The colors are exceedingly sharp and, with the exception of a few out-of-focus shots, the super-reality of the cinematography almost makes the images unreal, as if they are museum displays.

For example, one of the shots towards the end features a man in a red jacket out to wading height in the lake, casting his line further out into the water. Each ripple of water around this man looks perfectly placed, as if the scene were designed to be just perfect, rather than just being caught by happenstance by an amateur cameraman.

At this point, too, Iannazzi begins altering the soundtrack, going from authentic bird noises to a surreal, echoing call that sounds human, but maybe isn’t. The men, although they are killing animals for either food or sport, seem to display a respect for the bounty that nature is providing for them. However, perhaps nature isn’t so thrilled and can only voice its frustration through haunting echoes.

If you want to see more films by Zach Iannazzi, he’s uploaded a few more samples to Vimeo.

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