Jiří Menzel

Presented by the Melbourne Cinémathèque & ACMI

Jiří Menzel: Making Comedies Is No Fun

Film program


Wed 25 Sep – Wed 9 Oct 2024

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Of all of the storied “New Wave” filmmakers who graduated from Prague’s FAMU film school in the 1960s, Jiří Menzel (1938–2020) was the first to gain significant international renown – his tirelessly charming debut feature, Closely Observed Trains (1966), won the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award in 1968 – and the filmmaker whose career probably suffered least during the grim “Normalisation” years between the 1968 Soviet invasion and the lead-up to the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Not to say he didn’t encounter interference – notably, his fourth feature, Larks on a String, completed in 1969, didn’t emerge until 1990 when it won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.

An understated performer onscreen in his own films and those of others’, Menzel remains best known as a writer-director of gently paced comedies steeped in pathos, and as the foremost adapter for the screen of works by key post-war Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal; accordingly, this season features three of Menzel’s six adaptations of Hrabal’s distinctively loquacious, often ribald novels: Closely Observed Trains, Larks on a String and I Served the King of England (2006). Menzel was wont to adapt other Czech literary greats too, including Josef Škvorecký and Menzel’s one-time landlord, Václav Havel; while this season includes the wistful Capricious Summer (1968), adapted from a novel by Vladislav Vančura. Rounding out the season is a delightful outlier in Menzel’s oeuvre, his 1978 tribute to the Czech filmmaking pioneers, Those Wonderful Movie Cranks and Robert Kolinsky’s excellent 2016 documentary, Jiří Menzel – To Make a Comedy is No Fun.

Presented in partnership with the Czech and Slovak Film Festival of Australia.


Cinema 1, Level 2
ACMI, Fed Square

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Films in this program (Wed 25 Sep – Wed 9 Oct 2024)

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About Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.

Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, volunteer-run, not-for-profit and membership-driven. 

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