Using slow, meditative strokes of classic filmmaking, first-time director Paolo Franchi explores loneliness and the fear of emotional involvement in The Spectator. Ostensibly the portrait of a "stalker," this very delicate, understated piece of filmmaking deals with three characters' self-induced solitude. Valeria (Barbora Bobulova), a quiet young woman, becomes so obsessed with a man she barely knows that she gives up her own life, to live vicariously in his world. Even she doesn't know why. Valeria's life in Turin revolves around her work as an interpreter, evenings in a disco, one-night stands. She spies on a neighbor, Massimo (Andrea Renzi), who lives opposite her. When he suddenly moves to Rome, she impulsively drops everything to follow him. She insinuates her way into the life of the woman he's seeing, Flavia (Brigitte Catillon), an attractive widow and lawyer. When she is finally introduced to Massimo, he appears not to recognize her. Still, there is a feeling between them, which the film prefers to leave undefined and ambiguous. The three actors glide gracefully through difficult roles in which their feelings remain repressed and unspoken. Bobulova, who has worked with Italy's top directors, portrays Valeria as a sweet, confused girl. The French actress Catillon (dubbed into Italian by Licia Maglietta) is both alluring and distant, having erected an impenetrable wall around her emotions after the death of her husband. Perhaps the biggest loser is the shy, quiet man played by Renzi, who yearns to open up to someone but never finds "the right person."
Paolo Franchi shot his first short, Pages from a Personal Diary, at age 19. He was an assistant director to Nanni Loy, Francesco Maselli, and Peter Del Monte. He attended the film school at Bassano del Grappa, Ipotesi Cinema, under Ermanno Olmi. Later, he earned a degree in directing at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. In 1994, his short La Storia Che Segue (The Following Story) was selected to compete in the Venice Film Festival, and went on to screen in several other international film festivals including Clermont-Ferrand, Annecy, and Munich. In 1996 Franchi shot a mid-length film Frammenti di Sapienza (Scraps of Sapienza), which was also selected to compete in the Venice Film Festival, receiving numerous awards and prizes at other festivals worldwide. The Spectator is Franchi's first feature-length film.