Born in Naples in 1973, Ranieri hit the ground running, finding her break out film just two years after starting her acting career. That project, a made for television movie on the life of Maria Callas in which she played the starring role, immediately made her one of the country’s most popular actresses.
After numerous supporting roles in both television and film, Ranieri scored the title role in Lodovico Gasparini’s 2016 miniseries “Luisa Spagnoli,” giving her another opportunity to portray a deeply complex character. The film follows the trailblazing entrepreneur who created the Perugina chocolate brand as well as a popular clothing line that still bears her name.
“I was born poor like you and know how hard life can be.” That inspiring line was part of her speech to rally the female employees who were left to run her candy factory after the men were called upon to fight World War I. Spagnoli revolutionized the role of women in the workplace, providing them comprehensive benefits, allowing them to bring their children to work and offering them paid time to nurse their babies. After the men returned from the war, the women remained in their positions. The series also focuses on Spagnoli’s romantic life and sheds light on her love affair with pasta magnate Giovanni Buitoni.
|Luisa Ranieri as Luisa Spagnoli|
At the other end of the spectrum is Fausto Brizzi’s 2016 comedy “Forever Young,” which tracks a group of friends and acquaintances ranging in age from 49-70 who can’t accept getting older. Ranieri plays Sonia, a 40-something single mother who advises her hairstylist, Angela (Sabrina Ferilli), to date a younger man. When Angela takes her advice, the two are not so pleasantly surprised to discover the young man is Sonia’s 19-year-old son. Ranieri shows off her talent for comedy while lending her character an introspective side. The film was a huge hit in Italy and features an exceptional cast delivering superb performances.
|"The Music of Silence"|
Ranieri’s natural empathy comes through as she conveys the heartbreak of having to teach her son, with tough love at times, to be strong and make his way through a world filled with darkness. Ennio Fantastichini is wonderful in the role of a loving and outgoing uncle who urges Amos to embrace music, opera in particular. A beautiful soundtrack that includes Bocelli’s captivating voice accompanies much of the film.
Ranieri is married to fellow actor Luca Zingaretti, who is best known for his lead role in the popular television series “Inspector Montalbano.” The couple met on the set of Riccardo Milani’s 2005 miniseries “Cefalonia.” They have two children.
All the aforementioned works are available to stream on Amazon. “The Hand of God” is available on Netflix. Click on the titles for direct links to stream them. The forceful performances, detailed set designs and excellent production values speak to the high quality of films coming out of Italy today and to why so many contemporary Italian films are available in the United States.
-Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the January 2022 issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.