Current Affairs Czech-born director Karel Reisz dies in London

28-11-2002 | Alena Škodová

Those of you who are film buffs surely know the American film from the 1980s, 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons. It was directed by Karel Reisz, a British film director of Czech origin. Karel Reisz died in London earlier this week, at the age of 76. Alena Skodova reports:

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Karel Reizs, Photo: CTKKarel Reizs, Photo: CTK Karel Reisz was born in Czechoslovakia - in the North Moravian city of Ostrava in July 1926. But he spent most of his life in Britain, and is considered a British film director. Reisz arrived in Britain in 1939 as one of more than 600 Jewish children, who escaped the horrific fate of their parents thanks to Sir Nicholas Winton, who arranged for them to escape Czechoslovakia.

Paradoxically, Karel Reisz was one of those who tried to talk Slovak film director Matej Minac out of making a film about Sir Nicholas, saying the theme of the Holocaust was no longer interesting for film viewers. Minac's Czech-Slovak co-production, called 'Nicholas Winton - The Power of Good" describing the Jewish children's escape from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, won the prestigious Emmy television award in the United States this week in the category of documentary films.

Reisz's interest in films showed soon after his arrival in Britain, where he shot his first attempts on 16-mm film. Towards the end of the war he joined the RAF as a pilot, and after the war he established himself as a film critic and wrote a respected book on film editing. At the beginning of the 1950s he was one of the founders of the Free Cinema movement, which introduced a new approach to the art of film-making.

Reisz was also a representative of the British New Wave, and cooperated with the famous 'Angry Young Men'. Together with Tony Richardson he made a documentary called 'Momma Don't Allow' and was a producer of Lindsay Anderson's film 'This Sporting Life'. He himself directed several successful films such as 'Saturday Evening, Sunday Morning' and 'Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment'.

In 1970, Karel Reisz moved to the United States and started filming there, enjoying mixed success. The most famous and most successful of his Hollywood movies was undoubtedly 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' from 1981 for which Meryl Streep in the leading role was nominated for an Oscar.

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