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Miklos Jancso

Film-maker.

Born: September 27, 1921; Died: January 31, 2014

Miklos Jancso, who has died aged 92, was a film-maker and winner of the best director award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival for Red Psalm, about a 19th-century peasant revolt. Among his most successful films were The Round-up (1965), The Red and the White (1967) and Silence and Cry (1968).

He specialised in historical subjects and was known for lingering long shots as well as depicting the passage of time merely by costume changes.

In the 1960s, critics ranked him alongside such great directors as Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman, but he also had a popular touch and it was his use of scantily clad women which drew big audiences in prudish communist Hungary.

He was born, in Vac, a small town north of Budapest and his parents were refugees from Transylvania, once a part of Hungary. "My mother was Romanian," he once said of his childhood. "In civilian life, the family members were friends, but politically on opposite sides. For me this was a great lesson, that conflict, much less violence, will never solve the nationality problems."

Between April and November 1945, he was a Soviet prisoner of war and joined the communist party in 1946. "I was always concerned with the problem of how the individual can navigate through history," he said, summing up the central focus of his films.

After directing a series of short films in the 1950s, his 1963 Cantata drew the attention of the wider public to his exceptional talent and innovative style.

In the early 1970s, he lived in Italy during which time he made Vices and Pleasures, about the double suicide of Rudolf, Archduke of Austria, and his mistress in 1889.

But because the film included scenes depicting orgies, the movie was banned in Italy and Jancso was sentenced to four months in prison. He was later acquitted on appeal.

He also directed the French-Israeli co-production, Dawn, made in 1986 from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel's book about Jews seeking their identity in Israel. Between 1999 and 2006, he made a series of six films dealing with the often absurd adventures of Kapa and Pepe, two comical anti-heroes played by actors Zoltan Mucsi and Peter Scherer.

The use in the films of songs from Hungarian pop band Kispal es a Borz helped the movies gain cult status.

Jancso was a professor of the Budapest Film Academy, and between 1990 and 1992 he was a visiting professor at Harvard's Institute of Communications.

He received lifetime achievement awards in Cannes in 1979, Venice in 1990 and Budapest in 1994.

He is survived by this third wife, Zsuzsa Csákány, and four children. His second wife was Marta Meszaros, also a film director.

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