Manhattan’s Film Forum cinema house kicks off a three-week festival of classic heist flicks on 1 Oct, a celebration of that oddly comforting movie genre that provides the vicarious thrill of watching the planning, execution and (usually) unraveling of elaborately conceived crimes. You can find the full schedule and more information at Filmforum.org. These sorts of movies were among the first films to really capture my imagination as a kid, and I have a great fondness for them. In fact, in more highfalutin moments, I like to claim them as a minor inspiration for my interest in design — there’s a vague but visceral connection between their emphasis on puzzle-like narratives and the act of designing.
At its most basic, the structure of a heist film is an echo of the design process: a problem is identified, plans are developed, a team undertakes its implementation, and the story climaxes on the heist or the execution of the design itself. The dramatic tension of that final act defines the genre, but it’s the lead-up, the intricate preparation, the clever inventions and novel insights into the problem that provide the bulk of its raw pleasure to me. As a designer, there is for me a familiar echo of the work that I do in creating a solution when I watch on screen a cadre of experts — the safe-cracker, the sharp-shooter, the explosives expert — gathered around a blueprint of a bank, running through their plan of attack. Who doesn’t secretly want their work life to be like that?
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