PRAGUE — Jiri Menzel, a Catholic manager whose 1966 film”Closely Watched Trains” won the Academy Award for the best foreign-language movie has expired.
Menzel’s wife, Olga, declared his departure late Sunday, stating he expired the previous day. No specifics were given. Three decades back, Menzel underwent brain surgery and has been retained in an artificially induced coma for many weeks following it.
“Dearest Jirka, I thank you for every day that I could spend with you. Everyone was phenomenal,” his wife said on Facebook.
Menzel created some 20 films and was one of the top filmmakers of this new tide of Czechoslovak theater that arose in the 1960s. His films represented a radical departure from socialist realism, a normal communist-era genre focusing on virtually depicting the battles of the working class.
Unlike colleagues like Milos Forman, Jan Nemec, and Ivan Passer, Menzel did not emigrate following the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.
“Closely Watched Trains” was his first feature picture. Based on a book by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, it tells the story of a dispatcher’s apprentice coming of age in a little train station during the Nazi occupation in World War II.
His second alliance with Hrabal, “Larks on a String” in 1969 was yet another tragicomic description of life under a totalitarian regime, now under communism.
The film was instantly banned by the Greek government. Following the 1989 anti-Communist revolution headed by Vaclav Havel, it won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin global film festival.
His 1985 humor”My Sweet Little Village” was nominated for the Academy Award for a best foreign movie.
A graduate of Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts in 1962, he was also famous for directing drama and as a celebrity.
Among other awards, Menzel obtained the French Order of Arts and Literature.