The Art of Collecting Films

The first thing I hear when I say I collect films is “why do you buy movies if they’re all on Netflix?”. Well, they’re not. Search for your favourite movies on Netflix or check how many titles from the Top 250 Imdb list to see how many movies show up at the streaming service. Yes, they help a lot, especially if you are based on the United States – but the fact is, you can’t find most of the things on Netflix and because of it, we don’t have video stores to rent the movies we want to watch anymore, specially outside America. But I’m not here to talk bad things about streaming services. I’m here to present a personal intake of this activity I’ve found myself doing for more than ten years now.

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Collecting movies kind of became like a hobby for people who do it. You have the people who buy everything they want to watch, the people who buy special editions or films in high quality; and you have the people who like me, buy all the titles they enjoyed watching. It’s not about watching the same film several times, but enjoying the movie so much that you feel you would like to have it around for whenever you feel like watching it again or showing it to a friend. For me, who is a cinephile and filmmaker, to have my personal collection is almost as building a person film archive. A physical extension of all the great movies I’ve watched.

And archives are exactly what the distributors are counting on to survive in this rough market, who are everyday loosing customers for streaming services. Luckily for us, the distributors are creating special editions containing boxes of several movies from a director, actors, genre, or even movie themes. More exciting than that, are the restorations of old films in 4K which are released on Blu Ray or 4K HD. Distributors like The Criterion Collection, Curzon Artificial Eye and Arrow are some of the top distributors who spend money on this kind of work and release beautiful editions with customised covers, containing small books with intakes from directors, film critics and specialists. Some of them are even released in “steel-book”, a beautiful and special personalised edition which its cover is printed on a premium metal case. Restoring films and taking care of them are important as restoring art, and these distributors make sure they have the treatment they deserve. Take Criterion’s collection latest release, for exemple, containing about 30 Ingmar Bergman movies on Blu Ray quality. Not even Bergman himself had probably seen his films in such an incredible way.

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But these are dark times, specially for people who live outside the US. The United States, England and France are currently the countries who produce and consume the most when it comes to physical media, specially in high quality. Brazil is curiously the country who has the most edition of classical films on DVD, but sadly not all Blu Ray movies are printed for us. For those who don’t know, the Blu Ray discs have a “mother print” from the film’s country of origin, and rather they will receive a portuguese subtitle or not is a fact to take in consideration when it comes to bringing the movie to Brazil. This happens to most of the countries, but sometimes, even some titles with portuguese subtitles don’t come to Brazil because our market is extremely poor when it comes to physical media. For you to have an idea, Oscar nominated movies like Moonlight, Jackie and The Florida Project and didn’t even get a DVD release here. Other famous movies like Phantom Thread, Lady Bird and Manchester By the Sea only came out on DVD, leaving the Blu Ray version behind. Unfortunately, many bookstores that sell movies are closing the doors down here.

All of this makes me spend a lot of money in importing films, which became more difficult with Amazon US charging a 100% importation fee. Nowadays I have to buy everything from Amazon UK, which despite not having any fees, is more expensive when it comes to money exchange.

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With all this difficulty you must be thinking that only someone who really likes films will be submitting themselves to do such craziness. But even in this horrible economic crises Brazil is facing right now, I have seen several new distribution companies rise to deliver incredible boxes containing all Buster Keaton movies, special editions from several directors and many other titles that are not only impossible to find in any streaming service out there, but they are also being released for the first time in Brazil. So yes, maybe we all buy movies because we love them and we want to have them, but the more the time pass, more the distributors and the public realise that physical media has a vast range of titles that are being rediscovered, specially with these new restorations. So take a look at your local distributors and see what they are releasing. Search for the DVD area on the bookstores of your town. Buy a Blu Ray and see the difference from your A Clockwork Orange DVD from a Blu Ray version. The differences are huge, specially when you go back a little further more and you start seeing movies from the 30s with an image quality so perfect that it will seem that it has been made nowadays.

I currently hold 619 films in my collection and the numbers are growing strong. If you would like to know more about it, I have an Instagram account called @chezfilm, which interestingly enough, has become a great app for people who collects film. Of course I don’t think everybody should collect films, but take a closer look and you will probably see a catalogue as interesting, if not more, as Netflix.