Jiří Menzel

Active - 1965 - 2013  |   Born - Feb 23, 1938   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy Drama, Comedy

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

With his debut feature film Closely Watched Trains (1966), Czechoslovakian filmmaker Jiøí Menzel became an important member in Czech New Wave cinema and won an Academy Award. Menzel started out as an assistant director and occasional actor for Vera Chytilova following his graduation from the Prague film school F.A.M.U. In 1965, Menzel directed an episode ("The Death of Mr. Baltazar") for the feature anthology Pearls of the Deep, a tribute to distinguished Czech author Bohumil Hrabal. Later that year, he contributed an episode in a similar tribute to the writings of Josef Skvorecky, Crime at the Girls School. Following the success of Closely Watched Trains, Menzel directed Capricious Summer (1968) and turned in a great performance as a tightrope walker (Menzel is actually an accomplished balancer and performs regularly on-stage). In 1969, he made Larks on a String, considered by many to be his best work. Unfortunately, its critical stance on Communism led to its being banned from release until 1990 when it played internationally. Because the film was banned, Menzel was barred from filmmaking until 1974 when he publicly announced that he supported Communism. He then made Who Looks for Gold?, but has since disowned the film because of the personal price he had to pay to make it. From the late '70s through the mid-'80s, Menzel made non-political, nostalgic comedies that were almost slapstick at times. He had international success in 1986 with the delightful My Sweet Little Village. In the late '80s, Menzel again returned to political activism and continued to make films though the mid-'90s.

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