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The New Bootlegs: open matte films & unofficial scans

The unofficial, often open matte scans of these films preserve a tactile history of cinema in its imperfect totality.

An essay by Lexie Corbett

We want art, and artists, both polished and messy, remote but coy. We want them humanised in a private way, not oversharing online, but something unseen yet not hidden. A newly uncovered recording, an unpublished interview – things that happened to be captured in their time, and authentic because of it. When it comes to the art of the cinema, our desire for authenticity in the digital age is often to look backward at the beauty of analogue technologies, and the tactility of film grain. Sadly, such analogue curiosity is not shared by most of those in charge of official releases. Blu-Ray restorations of films like The Shining and Taxi Driver flatten the colours, offering up shiny digital versions. These releases feel much less vital to behold than they could otherwise have been.

In the past several years there has been a small market of cinephiles seeking out unofficial, often open matte, 35mm scans of some very famous films. These are cinema’s bootlegs, unique ephemera created by enthusiasts wishing to preserve film history with its blemishes intact. Recently, I’ve found myself obsessed with unofficial releases – The Shining, Taxi Driver, Psycho, Vertigo, and others, have all been made available.

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