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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Oscar-winning director Jiri Menzel dies at 82

In 1967, Jiri Menzel won the best foreign language film Academy Award for his first directorial venture, a Nazi occupation story Closely Watched Trains.

By: PTI | Los Angeles | Updated: September 7, 2020 2:05:17 pm
Jiri Menzel deathJiri Menzel's wife, Olga shared the news on Facebook. (Photo: Reuters/Tobias Schwarz)

Oscar-winning Czech film director Jiri Menzel has died at the age of 82 following a long battle with serious health problems.

Menzel’s wife, Olga, shared the news of the veteran filmmaker’s demise on Facebook late Sunday.

“Our dear Jiri, the bravest of the brave. Your body left our mundane world in our arms last night,” Olga wrote.

“Dearest Jirka, I thank you for each and single day I could spend with you. Each was extraordinary. I am also grateful to you for the last three years, as hard as they were,” she added.

Born on 23 February 1938, Menzel studied film direction in Prague and graduated to become one of the leading figures of the Czechoslovak New Wave of cinema, alongside another Oscar winner, Milos Forman in the 1960s.

In 1967, Menzel won the best foreign language film Academy Award for his first directorial venture, a Nazi occupation story Closely Watched Trains.

The film was based on a novel by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal and following the Oscar win, Menzel went on to adapt the novelist’s other books — Cutting it Short and Larks on a String.

Larks on a String, which depicted the life of people sidelined by the communist regime ruling in then-Czechoslovakia, was originally supposed to bow out in 1969. The film was banned by the authorities and only returned to the screens after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

The director’s other films based on Hrabal’s books include Shortcuts (1981) and The Snowdrop Festival (1984).

Menzel earned his second Academy Award nomination in 1986 for the dark comedy My Sweet Little Village.

He was also a prolific theatre director, as well as an actor and writer, and was awarded the French title of Knight of Arts and Letters.

He played around 80 roles in film and television. His last acting gig was as the title character in the Czech-Slovak co-production drama directed by Martin Sulik, The Interpreter.

Menzel had been away from the spotlight since 2017 when he had a brain surgery and meningitis.

He is survived by his wife and two daughters, Anna Karolina and Eva Maria.

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