HomeFilmsDirectorsActorsArticlesOther stuffSite map



Born: Prague, Czechoslovakia, 23 February 1938.

Jirí Menzel (JPG, 11 KB)

Menzel graduated from FAMU [Prague Film School] in 1962 and worked as an assistant to Vera Chytilová before becoming a director. A self-proclaimed student of comedy (particularly the Czech comedies of Martin Fric, and Jirí Voskovec and Jan Werich), his films are mostly based on collaborations with leading writers. Most of his best films have been in partnership with the novelist Bohumil Hrabal—Perlicky na dne / Pearls of the Deep (1965, episode Smrt pana Baltazara / The Death of Mr. Balthazar), Skrivánci na niti / Skylarks on a String (1969, released 1990, Berlin Golden Bear award), Postriziny / Cutting it Short (1980), Slavnosti snezenek / The Snowdrop Festival (1983), and especially Ostre sledované vaky / Closely Watched Trains (1966, Academy Award winner, 1967), the most popular abroad. Its story of a young station assistant more concerned with losing his virginity than promoting the Führer's New Order was very much in the Svejkian tradition of the little man finding his own ways of subverting dominant ideologies. Menzel also adapted two novels by Vladislav Vancura and worked with Ladislav Smoljak and Zdenek Sverák. He was active in theatre as director of the Cinoherni klub (Drama Club), and after the fall of the Communist government in 1989 he became head of the direction department at FAMU. In 1990 he made a film of his stage production of Vaclav Havel's Zebrácká opera / The Beggar's Opera. He has combined directing with acting, some of his best-known parts being the philandering doctor in Chytilová's Hra o jablko / The Apple Game (1976), Hrabal in Petr Koliha's Nezny barbar / Tender Barbarian (1989), and the leading role in Costa-Gavras' Petite apocalypse / A Minor Apocalypse (1992). While always adopting a respectful attitude towards literary sources, Menzel's direction is distinguished by balanced ensemble playing, a gentle lyricism, and a humanist attitude to his characters reminiscent of Jean Renoir and François Truffaut.

— Peter Hames, Encylopedia of European Cinema

Internet Movie Database

This page has been visited times since 18 December 1999.

[ home | films | directors | actors | articles | other stuff | site map ]

This page was last updated on 3 September 2000.