Jiri Menzel dies at 82

Czech New Wave director had battled long illness

by Amber Wilkinson

Jiri Menzel on the red carpet at Karlovy Vary with William Friedkin in 2014
Jiri Menzel on the red carpet at Karlovy Vary with William Friedkin in 2014 Photo: Courtesy of Karlovy Vary Film Festival
Oscar-winning Czech director, writer and actor Jiri Menzel died on Saturday at the age of 82.

His wife Olga posted a tribute to her husband on Instagram and Facebook yesterday, writing: "Our beloved, the bravest of all the brave. Last night, at home in our arms, your body left our earthly world. It was a great honor to be able to accompany you on your last journey."

Menzel, who won the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1968 for his Nazi occupation romance Closely Observed Trains, was a leading figure of the Czech New Wave, with films including Larks On A String and Shortcuts.

In a directing career spanning more than 40 years, he was also Oscar nominated for My Sweet Little Village and carried on making films into the 2000s, including quirky comedy I Served The King Of England in 2006.

In addition to his role behind the camera, he acted regularly, notching up more than 80 TV and film credits. His final role was alongside Peter Simonischek in Martin Sulik's The Interpreter, a fictional consideration of the impact of Nazi leaders' lives on their children. Menzel was rarely seen in public after he underwent brain surgery in 2017.

Fellow Czech director Jan Hrebejk, who was Oscar-nominated for Divided We Fall, paid tribute to Menzel on Twitter with a photo of the pair of them adding, in another tweet, "I thank him for everything he did for us."

Menzel won a Czech Lion - the country's equivalent of an Oscar - for lifetime achievement and was honoured at Karlovy Vary Film Festival with a Crystal Globe for his outstanding contribution to world cinema. Like all recipients of the honour, the festival made a quirky trailer featuring the director and his prize, which you can see at the top of this article.

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