Although he was born in Toronto, both of filmmaker Noel Mitrani's parents were French, and he was educated in that country. This probably explains why On the Trail of Igor Rizzi, his minimalist first feature, is more beholden to the austerity of Robert Bresson and the Dardenne brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre, than it is to, say, the falsely chaotic randomness of Jim Jarmusch. Although he now lives and works in Quebec, Mitrani's sensibility remains distinctly European.
This background story is very much present in On the Trail of Igor Rizzi, the tale of a small-time thief (Laurent Lucas) who is offered $15,000 to whack a reprehensible "Russian-Italian" (the eponymous Rizzi). In a previous life, Jean-Marc Thomas had been a French soccer superstar who never got the chance to tell his Québécois girlfriend (Isabelle Blais) how much he really loved her. Nowadays, bankrupt, he spends most of his time kicking a soccer ball through the snow-bound vacant lots of downtown Montreal–the actors' visible breath proving this to be one of the few Canadian features set in winter that was actually shot in that camera-unfriendly season–and swigging coffee from abandoned cups. His house might be spotless, but it has virtually no furniture. Fifteen thousand dollars would really make a difference to Jean-Marc's impoverished lifestyle.
Only gradually does the viewer realize that he or she is watching a morality play, and a rather conventional one at that. Still, there are enough incidental pleasures along the way (some extremely clever sequence shots and the nonstop war of words between Lucas's continental French and the joual-inflected voices that buffet him on every side) to make this film's rather slow pace more than just endurable.
By Mark Harris