Jiri Menzel, Oscar-Winning Czech Director, Dies at 82

Menzel won Best International Film in 1967 for “Closely Watched Trains”

Last Updated: September 6, 2020 @ 4:36 PM

Jiri Menzel, director of the Oscar-winning film “Closely Watched Trains,” died this weekend at the age of 82, according to a Facebook post by his wife.

“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,” his wife wrote in her post.

Born in Prague in 1938, Menzel became one of the most famous members of the Czech New Wave of cinema in the 1960s, earning critical acclaim in the West while struggling to get his films released in his home country due to Communist censors. Many of his films were based on the novels of Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, including “Closely Watched Trains,” a coming-of-age story about a teen who gets a job at a train station in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Menzel’s adaptation won the Oscar for Best International Film — then known as Best Foreign Language Film — in 1967.

Menzel also earned a second Oscar nomination ini 1987 for his satirical comedy “My Sweet Little Village,” which follows a truck driver named Pavek who struggles to work with his simple-minded new partner, Otik. In 1990, he won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival with “Larks on a String,” a comedy about a junkyard where the Communist Czech government sends the bourgeois for re-education. The film was shot in 1969 but was only released after the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades later.

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