Friday, July 07, 2006

Charlotte Rampling and Lewis Flacks

English actress Charlotte Rampling has been much in the news lately, due to her starring role in a trite, pretentious French film called "Heading South." There is a short piece about Ms. Rampling in this week's New Yorker magazine (pp.37-38), and reviews in newspapers. Today's New York Times sums it up: "The Ache of Blinding Lust in a Sexual Paradise Lost." Except the reviewer, Stephen Holden liked the movie, alot. Set in Haiti in the 1970s, the movie explores sex and politics, power and oppression, and middle-age desire for erotic rapture: I'll take World Cup soccer. One is happy, though, for Ms. Rampling (she is 60 and plays a 55 year old in the movie). She has lived in France since the 1970s, around the time of her most famous role, in the Night Porter (1974).

This leads, of course, to the late Lewis Flacks, a former international copyright specialist at the Copyright Office. Lewis was a huge fan of Ms. Rampling's. In his office he kept a book of revealing photographs of her by Dirk Bogarde (her co-star in The Night Porter), called "Charlotte Rampling: With Compliments." In addition to her feral, erotic qualities, Lewis was particularly taken by her role in The Night Porter: given the subject matter of that movie and Lewis' background, there were some deep problems with this fascination. And Lewis was a very complex man, combining haut and bas as if they all part of the same instinct: he dressed like a government lawyer's version of David Lindley, yet appreciated nuances of French couture (especially on Ms. Rampling); smoked disgusting cigars, yet loved fine wine; had an encyclopedic knowledge of movies, yet loved to fritter away time playing simple console video games and drinking bad beer in the basement of a dive near the Copyright Office on Pennyslvania Avenue.

He had an astonishing intellect and feel for how to address international issues in an era when few were interested in them. Indeed, it was Lewis who was responsible for the Copyright Office's important role in the government's use of intellectual property as a component of trade policy, due to his relationship with Emery Simon, then at USTR. In the end, Lewis left the Office after a long career and joined IFPI in London. He is sorely missed as a true original.


Reel Fanatic said...

I really liked Charlotte Rampling in Francous Ozoin's (sp?) superb psychological thriller "Swimming Pool," but I'm with you .. right now it's all about the World Cup ... go Les Bleus!

William Patry said...

Here's a link to The Swimming Pool, another of Charlotte's highly charged performances:

Anonymous said...

Lewis - may he rest in peace - frankly had mixed success as a “haut” bon vivant. He led me, Dorothy Schrader and many other complaining copyright companions one summer evening in 1985 after an interminable UNESCO meeting to what was most certainly one of the worst and most expensive Chinese food outings ever - in Paris of all places. We basically spent about 50 bucks a piece at the time for a bad and small serving of egg foo yong, rice and egg rolls and a glass of rather warm and barely drinkable white house wine. I suppose it served us right. When in Paris, it’s not a bad idea to eat the way les parisiens do. But Lewis had to be different - in Paris of all places. Doubtless, he would have sought out the most expensive French restaurant in Hong Kong.

And I don’t think that Lewis would have claimed particular credit - or should deserve particular blame (depending on how things play out) - for “the government's use of intellectual property as a component of trade policy”. That was a tide that swept a lot of people along. Some fought it; others swam with it and some just stood by and watched. Emory Simon was indeed early to spot the trend and dived right in. Lewis was in fact quite reluctant initially to link copyright to trade. The purist in him resisted it for some time. So too, I seem to recall, did many of the U.S. traditional copyright industries, who feared that international copyright standards (already high and detailed on the copyright side under Berne) would be traded away by know-nothing trade types in exchange for higher and more detailed standards on the patent side (which effectively had no standards of protection at the time under the Paris Convention). The new kids on the block at the time in copyright – the software industry – were also quick to jump on the trade bandwagon. Ironically, IBM was leading the software industry and Microsoft was nowhere to be seen. There are stories there to be told too…

Not to diminish the roles of Emory Simon or Mike Keplinger, but I understand that Lewis recognized the leadership and formative role that Mike Kirk – then at Commerce - played in the GATT/TRIPs process and the on-going negotiations. I believe Mike asked the Register of Copyrights to lend him an expert international copyright lawyer to the TRIPs negotiating team, and it was Lewis who was sent over - despite his bad judgment when it came to Chinese restaurants in Paris.