Noel Mitrani, director of On The Trail Of Igor Rizzi also wrote the film and produced the film, I even suspect that he held the camera at times, and swept the floor when filming had completed. Such commitment to a debut project by Mitrani, is made obvious in a portrait of a man bound by his past in On The Trail Of Igor Rizzi.
Laurent Lucas, an actor making substantial waves in his homeland of France, plays Jean-Marc Thomas, an ex-soccer play whose money has been swindled out of him at the height of his fame. An avalanche of misfortunes fall upon him as he loses the love of his life, and everything he’s worked for, and in a state of grief and disillusionment, travels to Montreal which is the hometown of Melanie (Isabelle Blais), his lost love, in order to be closer to her. Amidst a rolling narrative throughout the film, we see that Jean-Marc did not feel the importance of his relationship with Melanie until it was too late. He must resort to theft in order to survive and ultimately is commissioned to kill a man known as Igor Rizzi.
With a couple interactions between his friend Michel (Pierre-Luc Brilliant), Jean-Marc is often left to his own thoughts and reflections. On The Trail Of Igor Rizzi is an intimate experience of one man’s struggle to overcome grief and live again. Jean-Marc is an unwilling protégé to change, and flips between his thoughts and the necessity of survival, with room for little else in his life. Watching such an unlikely candidate as Jean-Marc uncoil is like enjoying a good meal, and savouring every bite.
This film isn’t all sadness though, as it has a delightful and shocking humour to it that may not have you rolling in the seats, but will relieve those elements of tension in the film. Jean-Marc is a first time assassin and his inexperience on the subject makes for many humorous pockets within the film. Interactions between Jean-Marc and Michel are witty and comfortable; they seem both friends and enemies at the same time, with a notable performance by Brilliant. It is the moments when Jean-Marc is alone, in his empty and almost abandoned house, that are the most intriguing; a man alone with his thoughts and regrets.
Jean-Marc appears to be surrounded by death: the loss of Melanie, a hit on Igor Rizzi, and a random connection to a murder, reveals the script’s complex meditations on death. A few unique twists make the film compelling enough to watch to its logical conclusion. As a viewer, you feel so much empathy for Jean-Marc and his unrequited love for Melanie that you almost put a blind eye to his unsavoury life now.
Shot in Montreal in the dead of winter, another character to the film is the landscape. The cold, snow-laden landscape is an ideal symbolic backdrop for Jean-Marc’s emotions. The landscape is cold and bitter and I had more tea than usual while watching this film, but the scenery seems perfectly suited for the purpose of the story. Jean-Marc appears isolated and frozen within a highly populated space; he seems to be in a city, but continually on its borders. This is a compelling character portrait, gently unfolded by both Noel Mitrani’s vision and Laurent Lucas’s acting.
On The Trail of Igor Rizzi was featured at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals and even awarded the prize for Best Canadian Feature Film, an award Mitrani has earned. This is a film definitely worth seeing; it has a theatrical release of late January 2007, but also keep an eye out for when it can be purchased on DVD.
By Kindah Mardam Bey