The organisation of one's media collection of choice is a tricky business, particularly for the obsessive individual. After one's film collection reaches a certain size, the organisation of DVDs (or Blu-rays) seems necessary in order to keep track of all the delightful goodies that have accumulated over the years. This also applies to a music collection, an obsession no better commented on than in Stephen Frears' High Fidelity (currently occupying space number 213 on my DVD shelf), in which Rob, the owner of a record store, rearranges his music collection in autobiographical order as a way of recovering from a nasty break up. I can personally recommend re-ordering your stuff in this way as a glorious tonic for all sorts of crises. Curiously, I have never encountered anyone who organises their book collection as obsessively as Rob does with his records, or I do with my films. Perhaps it has something to do with the relative newness of the medium of film, or the primacy of film and pop music over literature as the dominant cultural outputs in modern society.
As High Fidelity's Rob would certainly attest, at one point or another the obvious and frankly amateurish alphabetical method of DVD organisation will simply no longer cut the mustard for the obsessive collector, and a more obscure method of organisation must be adopted. For example, one associate of mine asserts that organising films by studio is the way to go. Certainly, not only is it aesthetically pleasing to see all the little 'Warner Bros.' and '20th Century Fox' logos all lined up together, but also, you get a sense of the kinds of films that those studios produce. For the film obsessive, this is a fine way to organise your movies. However, it is not quite sufficient. Nor is organising by director, actor, or other single creative entity, as the titular alphabetic pandemonium ensuing from placing Raising Arizona (written and directed by the Coen brothers) before The Birds (directed by Alfred Hitchcock), is simply not an acceptable aesthetic proposition. Even worse, the logical conclusion of such a filing system would mean splitting up film series that were not always made by the same people, for example, Alien (directed by Ridley Scott) and Aliens, (directed by James Cameron) or Superman: The Movie (Richard Donner) and Superman II (Richard Lester). No, no, no, this aesthetic violence will not stand.
My solution, therefore, is to return to the classic alphabetical system (by title), but cross-referenced by director, cross-referenced by franchise, cross-referenced by studio, and if I'm feeling particularly sexy, cross-referenced by producer. Or, to put it less like a madman, my DVDs are allowed to sit in eye-pleasing alphabetical order but only on the strict condition that they take into account the main creative force or forces behind the film. No, wait, that still sounds mad. Right, listen: we start with letter 'A', so The African Queen might come first. But then we look at the director, which in this case is John Huston, so he gets to have his films The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre next. They still nestle happily under 'A', like disc-shaped cuckoos fooling their surrogate mother alphabet, whilst simultaneously satisfying their own urge to cluster with their directorial kin. So now we've put Huston together, we can move on to the next film in alphabetical order, let's say Alien. This is followed by Aliens, even though they were made by different directors, because splitting up a franchise would be fucking mental. When the franchise is complete, then, and only then, do we return to the director, so we now get Blade Runner (Scott), and then The Terminator (Cameron). Are you following me? Excellent, then I'll continue.
Usually, a director is the main creative force behind a film, directing, as you might expect, most of the major decisions that are made during the film-making process. However, sometimes other entities, like writers, producers or even studios are as, if not more important. A good example of this would be the Disney studio. Films made by Disney are one of the most recognisable, and iconic, types of movie in the world, transcending the usual distinctions of genre, director or actor to become, simply a 'Disney Film'. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single director or writer from any of the myriad Disney films I've seen, but we all have a clear understanding of what a Disney film is. In my catalogue de films triomphante, it makes far more sense to group Disney films together and more or less disregard their directors. This leads to other, lovely little crossroads where creative auteurship is not so clean-cut, like the spate of gangster films that Warner Bros. produced in the 1930s, or the classic Universal horror pictures such as Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, and Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff and directed by the legendary James Whale. These groups are fascinating (no honestly, they really are) because, while they belong to the horror and gangster canons that Universal and Warner Bros. studios fostered, they also belong to the separate, but contiguous, canons of their directors, writers and stars, not to mention the stylistic canons of their historical periods. It's good to be a bit obsessive about how you organise your movies (and music and books, for that matter) because when you are all these little connections are forced to surface. They pull at each other and fight for dominance. They all demand attention like two interminable, simultaneous itches, and it's essentially impossible to satisfy the demands of each. What is particularly fascinating about films is that the creative process is such a collaborative effort, perhaps more so than in any other artistic medium. Organising your films properly is a way of revealing that lovely big, aesthetically pleasing, cacophony of order. The process exhumes the collaborative, thematic and historical links that tie films together in a great big, interconnected spiderweb of cinema. Plus, it's an evening, ain't it?