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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Margherita Buy: A Road Traveled

Margherita Buy (L) and Sabrina Ferilli at the 2015 Rome premiere of Io e Lei
She has been a fixture in Italian cinema for decades with an impressive range that has landed her in all kinds of zany predicaments. Whether she's discovering the secret life of her deceased husband, dealing with a coming-of-age-daughter or struggling with the effects of a depressed economy, Margherita Buy's strong presence and command of her roles makes her a spell-binding leading lady.

Born on January 15, 1962 in the Eternal City, Buy studied her craft at Rome's Academy of Dramatic Arts Silvio D'Amico. That's where she met her future husband and lifelong collaborator, Sergio Rubini. The two made a number of successful films together, including Tutto l'amore che c'e, L'amore ritorna and L'uomo nero. Although their marriage didn't work out, the two have remained close friends and continue to work together.
Buy has been making movies since the mid-80's but her international breakthrough came in 2001 with Ferzan Ozpetek's drama, La fate ignorante (His Secret Life). Buy takes on the role of Antonia whose husband is killed suddenly in an automobile accident. Shortly after his death, she discovers a painting that was given to him. Upon further investigation, she learns the painting was a gift from her husband’s lover. Only then does she learn about the other life he led. It's a complicated role that called upon Buy's ability to express her emotions through her gaze, which is a trademark quality in Ozpetek's direction, as well as acting out her feelings in her emotionally-charged scenes. 

In 2003, Buy showed us a lighter, more comical side in Paolo Verzi's coming of age film, Caterina va in città (Caterina in the Big City). Buy is the mother of Caterina, a teenager who moves from a small town to big time Roma and is faced with the huge task of assimilating. Buy's character also has to put up with her politically passionate, basket case husband, hilariously played by Sergio Castellitto. The two Italian cinema veterans present us with a funny, touching portrait about the trials and tribulations of one family just trying to evolve with the times.

2007 proved to be a busy year for the actress. She starred in two international blockbusters; Ferzan Ozpetek's 2007 hit ensemble film, Saturno Contro (Saturn in Opposition) and Silvio Soldini's Giorni e Nuvole (Days and Clouds). Saturn in Opposition focuses on a group of contemporary 30 and 40 - somethings and their struggles with coming to terms with the reality of dreams that didn't always come true. Buy's character deals with infidelity and the challenges facing a couple trying to hold onto their marriage. She dealt with a similar subject matter in Soldini's Days and Clouds, which is the story of a middle-aged couple that seems to have everything; a beautiful home, lots of friends, a great social life; but when Michele, portrayed by Antonio Albanese, loses his partner's confidence, he finds himself at square one looking for a job. Margherita Buy pulls no punches in playing the part of Elsa, Michele's wife who is faced with the task of downsizing her whole life. She succeeds in communicating the deep frustration she feels and her desire in finding an outlet for that frustration that will ultimately save her marriage.

Buy's performance in Nanni Moretti's 2011 reflective comedy, Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope)  combined her talents for comedy and drama with role of a renowned psychiatrist who guides a newly elected Pope to look back on his life and figure out why he really doesn't want the job. Buy shares the screen with another beloved Italian filmmaker, this time Nanni Moretti, and the two created a beautiful and sometimes funny retrospective on life.

In Ferzan Ozpetek's 2012 masterpiece, Magnifica Presenza (Magnificent Presence), Buy plays an elegant and charming actress from a 1940's acting troupe that comes back from the dead, articulately and beautifully dressed from head to toe, to help solve the murder of her friend and fellow actress. The story line is a little over the top and you can tell that she genuinely had some fun with this role. The musical score mixed with the costumes and sumptuous design give this film an air of decadence and fantasy.

Her latest film, Io e lei is a love story about two women. Right now, it's the most popular film in Italy and just opened to rave reviews. Read my review here. Buy's character, Federica finds herself in love with a woman for the first time in her life and she is dealing with a whole host of emotions, shame being one of them. The beautiful aspect of her character is the innocence reflected by her genuine feelings of love. She doesn't see herself as a lesbian, just a woman in love. That innate ability to be a humble character with flaws is what makes Buy so special and her performances so convincing.

Margherita Buy works continuously creating character-driven performances that mirror the modern woman. She currently has four projects in production.

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