In the memory of Jiƙí Menzel, Oscar-winning director

Jiƙí Menzel (23 February 1938 – 5 September 2020) was a Czech film director, theatre director, actor, and screenwriter.
His films often combine a humanistic view of the world with sarcasm and provocative cinematography. Some of these films are adapted from works by Czech writers such as Bohumil Hrabal and Vladislav Vančura.

Menzel was born in Prague in 1938 to Josef Menzel and BoĆŸena JindƙichovĂĄ. His father Josef was a journalist, translator and children’s book writer. Menzel studied directing at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU) in Prague. His teachers at the academy included Czech Director Otakar VĂĄvra.

Menzel was a member of the Czech New Wave cinema in the 1960s. His first feature film, Closely Watched Trains, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1967.[8][2] The film was World War II drama based on a book by Bohumil Hrabal.[4] His film Larks on a String was filmed in 1969, but was banned by the Czechoslovakian government. It was finally released in 1990 after the fall of the Communist regime. The film won the Golden Bear at the 40th Berlin International Film Festival in 1990.[9] The film was also based on a book by Bohumil Hrabal, and spoke about life in a re-education camp in Czechoslovakia under the communist rule.[4][10]

Menzel was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film again in 1986 with his dark comedy My Sweet Little Village. In 1987, he was a member of the jury at the 37th Berlin International Film Festival. In 1989 he was a member of the jury at the 16th Moscow International Film Festival. In 1995 he was a member of the jury at the 19th Moscow International Film Festival. He was awarded an IIFA Lifetime Achievement Award in November 2013. He was also awarded the French title of Knight of Arts and Letters and the Czech Lion for lifetime artistic contribution.

In the 1980s he was offered by a West German television studio to make a television series version of The Good Soldier Svejk with Rudolf Hrusinsky. The Czechoslovakian government prevented this from happening however.

His last appearance in a feature film was in the 2018 Slovak film, The Interpreter, which was based on the story of a man’s interactions with an SS soldier who had executed his parents. The film was Slovakia’s official entry to the Oscars.

Menzel died on September 5, 2020, aged 82, after battling a prolonged illness. He had undergone a brain surgery earlier in 2017. He is survived by his wife Olga Menzelová, and daughters, Anna Karolina and Eva Maria. Menzel’s wife confirmed on 9 November 2020 that Menzel died as a result of COVID-19 pneumonia.