One of the iconic Russian movie directors from the Soviet era, Eldar Ryazanov, has died. He was 88. According to Russian news agency reports, Ryazanov died at a Moscow hospital of cardiac failure following a lengthy illness.

cruelromanceBorn in Samara in 1927, Ryazanov wrote or co-write many of his movies. He became one of the Soviet Union’s biggest hitmakers of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Ryazanov’s first narrative film, the 1956 Carnival in Moscow (Karnavalnaya Noch), was a breakout success, followed by a string of crowd pleasers, including Old Men – Robbers, Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia, Office Romance, A Railway Station for Two, A Cruel Romance, Watch Out for the Automobile, Garage, A Forgotten Tune for the Flute and Say a Word for the Poor Hussar.

ironyoffateRyazanov is best known for his style of comedy which satirized Soviet life, with many of his movies featuring a romantic storyline. His signature film — the hugely popular 1975 TV movie Irony of Fate (Ирония Судьбы) — became an instant holiday classic of the scope of It’s a Wonderful Life in the former Eastern Bloc where it has been airing annually on New Year’s Eve. Underlining the film’s lasting popularity, a 2007 feature sequel co-written and directed by Timur Bekmambetov broke Russian box-office records.

Here is one of my favorite moments from a Ryazanov movie, the song Мохнатый шмель from A Cruel Romance, performed by the film’s star, Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov, who also is an actor: