I’m always fascinated when movies are examined by professionals that aren’t film critics, but who view the films with an equally focused and trained eye as any cinephile from a completely different frame of reference. It can be a refreshing experience to hear what a scientist thinks of a time-travel film or, in this case, what a robust community of architecturally-interested readers pull out of cinema’s most classic heist and prison break films. That’s the idea behind BLDG BLOG’s Breaking Out And Breaking In film festival, which they’re “programming” in conjunction with Filmmaker Magazine and Studio-X NY.

Breaking Out and Breaking In is an exploration of the use and misuse of space in prison escapes and bank heists, where architecture is the obstacle between you and what you’re looking for.

Basically the fest is a list of films (all easily found on DVD, Blu-ray, or VOD) with dates attached to them. The idea is you watch the film and join the discussion about each one on or near each date. The list includes 20 films with viewing dates rotating on pretty much every Monday and Friday starting tomorrow and running through April. The list starts with the classic Grand Illusion and concludes with Inception, and hits everything from Dog Day Afternoon to Rififi to Panic Room and Cube in between (the full schedule with dates/times is down below).

I do have to ask guys: where the hell is Tower Heist..?

In any event, the discussions will take place on the BLDG BLOG (with posts going up for each film around the screening dates) and will be supported by articles from the magazine. Ultimately it will culminate in a live discussion in NY at Studio X. I’m thinking our own forums would be a good place for chewers to have a discussion as well, but I think a lot of the value will be hearing from the architectural enthusiasts, city planners, and the other interesting folks that populate the BLDG BLOG with unique perspectives.

The escape and the break-in here are both about illicit reinterpretations of space, sometimes violent, sometimes simply used against the grain, operating a building, we might say, in every way the architect—and the guards who police his or her creation—regrettably overlooked.

Conversely, how is space regulated and maintained from the standpoint of the police and the prison guard, or from the point of view of the homeowner who seeks to hide his or her private riches? What obstacles, blockades, misdirections, decoys, safe rooms, and security systems must be implemented to ensure that a given space is properly accessed?

These are really interesting ideas to explore with a look at one of the most consistently entertaining genres in film (though I’m sad an Ocean’s film didn’t make the cut). It’s also a conversation that can cut to the core of what good filmmaking is built atop of: fundamental understanding of space, as well as our ability to interpret geography and distance relationships across disparate, frequently shifting images.

So join me in keeping an eye on what these architects are up to over there across the next few months. We might all learn something.

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Big thanks to Casey Moore for pointing this out to me.

Breaking Out—

Friday, January 27, 2012
Grand Illusion (dir. Jean Renoir, 1937)

Monday, January 30, 2012
A Man Escaped (dir. Robert Bresson, 1956)

Friday, February 3, 2012
The Great Escape (dir. John Sturges, 1963)

Monday, February 6, 2012
Cool Hand Luke (dir. Stuart Rosenberg, 1967)

Monday, February 13, 2012
Papillon (dir. Franklin J. Schaffner, 1973)

Friday, February 17, 2012
Escape from Alcatraz (dir. Don Siegel, 1979)

Monday, February 20, 2012
Escape from New York (dir. John Carpenter, 1981)

Friday, February 24, 2012
Cube (dir. Vincenzo Natali, 1997)

Monday, February 27, 2012
The Truman Show (dir. Peter Weir, 1998)

Friday, March 2, 2012
The Escapist (dir. Rupert Wyatt, 2008)

—Breaking In—

Monday, March 19, 2012
Rififi (dir. Jules Dassin, 1955)

Friday, March 23, 2012
The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (dir. John Guillermin, 1960)

Monday, March 26, 2012
The Italian Job (dir. Peter Collinson, 1969) vs. The Italian Job (dir. F. Gary Gray, 2003)

Friday, March 30, 2012
Dog Day Afternoon (dir. Sidney Lumet, 1975) vs. The Third Memory (dir. Pierre Huyghe, 1999)

Monday, April 2, 2012
Die Hard (dir. John McTiernan, 1988)

Friday, April 6, 2012
Following (dir. Christopher Nolan, 1998)

Monday, April 9, 2012
Panic Room (dir. David Fincher, 2002)

Friday, April 13, 2012
Inside Man (dir. Spike Lee, 2006)

Monday, April 16, 2012
The Bank Job (dir. Roger Donaldson, 2008)

Friday, April 20, 2012
Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2010)