Seen at the Movies: The latest Jet Li film, Unleashed is not your typical Jet Li film. This one has a plot and Li actually gets to test his acting chops a bit more than he has in past endeavors such as The One, Romeo Must Die, Hero, et al. The story concerns Danny (Li), a caged animal of a man who is the enforcer for Glasgow hoodlum, Bart (Bob Hoskins). After escaping his captor, Danny takes up with blind piano tuner Sam (Morgan Freeman) and his stepdaughter Victoria (Kelly Condon). Danny learns how to be human and in the process gains the family he never had. Of course there are some nasty obstacles thrown in that threaten Danny and his new family’s existence, but you shouldn’t expect anything less. Directed by Luc Letterier, Unleashed is rich on character and poor on action, but rest assured that you do get to see Danny beat the living daylights out of a number of unfortunate debtors. The production design by Jacques Bufnoir is understandably murky for Glasgow’s underworld and Sam’s apartment is certainly no Trump Tower, but it’s exceedingly homey. The costumes by Olivier Beriot are equally low key, the exception being Hoskins’ Boss Hogg-like white suit that is just as apropos now as it was then. However, when Danny goes from being caged to a new life, his new outfit reflects a little boy who finally gets to dress himself. DP Pierre Morel’s understated lighting deserves an article unto itself as he deftly switches from the “dark side” to the “brighter side” of life when Danny finally climbs out of the gutter. Special mention should also be given to the musical score by Massive Attack. Unleashed is certainly not a picnic, but it is enjoyable to see Jet Lit stretch his acting skills with considerable success.

Even darker and more European is High Tension a slasher/stalker movie from French director and co-writer Alexandre Aja that takes place in the French countryside rather than Camp Crystal Lake (Friday the 13th)or Haddonfield, Illinois (Halloween) or Texas (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). The movie is darker than any of the American films of this genre—killing a child is just not done in American movies, much better to off a string of horny teens—and it includes a bit of a twisted ending that would leave M. Night Shyamalan scratching his head. The movie starts as Alex and Marie head to the middle of French nowhere to visit Alex’s family. It’s not too long after they arrive and settle in for the night that the carnage begins. Bloodletting abounds, including one death by dresser (don’t ask). The decidedly rustic production design by Tony Egry gives the impression that the movie is in a completely different time period (well, it was made in 2003, but it seems older). The family’s home never seems altogether inviting even before the killing starts. Gregory Levasseur’s art direction can be described ably in one word: Dark. Okay, two words: Really dark. Since virtually the entire movie takes place at night, dark is good. It also adds to the overall feeling of gloom that permeates every single frame. The set decoration by Gabriella Nechita further adds to the rustic darkness, although the all-night gas station seems to provide some relief …for about two minutes. Maxime Alexandre was the cinematographer and was seemingly told to keep the energy bill down because the light is as evasive as whoever or whatever is lurking in the cornfield around that French farmhouse.
Mark A. Newman

Seen at Chelsea Piers: The New York Section of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IESNY) certainly knows how to throw a party, which is what it did on June 15th to recognize members who received 2005 Lumen Awards for outstanding lighting design. Held in the spacious Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers on the Hudson River in Manhattan, the gala was not only an outstanding tribute to the award recipients, but it was also a tribute to what can occur with such a dedicated volunteer organization. With over 500 people in attendance, the 2005 Lumen Awards have certainly set the standard for what IESNY members can expect in subsequent years.

The Lumen Award winners are:

Lumen Citations:
Lapland, Finland
Lighting Design Firm: Tillett Lighting Design
Architect: Lebbeus Woods
Artist: Kiki Smith

Postcards – The Staten Island September 11th Memorial
Staten Island, NY
Lighting Design Firm: Fisher Marantz Stone, Inc
Architect: Masayuki Sono
Collaborator: Lapshang Fong

Los Angeles, CA
Lighting Design Firm: Johnson Schwinghammer Lighting Consultants Inc.
Product & Computer Design Engineer: Glide Design Solutions Creative Engineering

William J. Clinton Presidential Library Exhibit Lighting
Little Rock, AR
Lighting Design Firms: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design & Technical Artistry
Architect: Polshek Partnership Architects, LLP

Lumen Awards of Merit:
FAO Schwarz Flagship Store New York, NY
Lighting Design Firm: Focus Lighting, Inc.
Architect: The Rockwell Group

Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, LLP
New York, NY
Lighting Design Firm: SBLD Studio
Architect: Lehman–Smith & McLeish, PLLC

Pier 1 Imports Headquarters
Fort Worth, TX
Lighting Design Firm: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design
Architect: Duda / Paine Architects LLP

Lumen Awards of Excellence:
Semiramis Hotel
Athens, Greece
Lighting Design Firm: Focus Lighting, Inc.
Architect: Karim Rashid

Teatro, MGM Grand
Las Vegas, NV
Lighting Design Firm: Focus Lighting, Inc.
Architect: Adam Tihany, Tihany Design

The Osram Sylvania Energy & Environmental Design Lumen Award of Excellence:
Bank of America Trading Floor
Charlotte, NC
Lighting Design Firm: Cosentini Lighting Design
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP