Lotte Eisner Interview – KPFK – October 23, 1971 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.
Fans of film history no doubt are familiar with the highly charged atmosphere of Cinema in Europe between the World Wars. Nowhere was this atmosphere more prevalent than in pre-Hitler Berlin. A hotbed of creativity and experimentation, the German cinema of the 1920s revolutionized film expression and elevated Movies to an art-form.
One of the people who observed and wrote about this revolution at length was the celebrated film critic and historian Lotte Eisner. Born in 1896, Eisner was witness to much of the upheaval and surge of creativity taking place. She wrote for a number of publications and was instrumental in spreading the word about this new wave of film making.
Fleeing Germany shortly after Hitler’s rise to power, Eisner settled in Paris, where she continued to write and help establish the Cinematheque Francaise in order to preserve films from this pivotal period. Eisner changed her identity during the war, and aided in hiding the treasure trove of films, which Nazi Germany had now declared Degenerate Art and ordered destroyed.
After the War, Eisner continued her work with the Cinematheque as well as writing her observations and publishing extensive interviews with the directors and actors from this, what came to be known as, The Golden Age Of Cinema.
This interview, done at KPFK-FM in Los Angeles in October of 1971 comes at around the time German Cinema was being rediscovered, and several museums, including the L.A. County Art Museum and the newly founded Filmex in L.A. were actively involved in promoting and showing these films to new audiences and new fans.
Eisner (who passed away in 1983), was a key figure in the resurrection of interest in the history of German Cinema during this time – this interview shares much of that keen insight and knowledge of a period of film making which has, sadly once again, gone into obscurity. Luckily though, through recent technological advances, films which were long thought lost or damaged beyond viewing are being actively preserved for future generations of film students and interested audiences.
Here is that complete interview, as it was broadcast on October 23, 1971.