Luisa Ranieri is hot off the heels of a big year. Appearing in Best Picture winner and Italian master filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino’s Netflix-produced, Venice Jury Prize winning drama The Hand of God in a pivotal supporting role, turned a lot of international heads her way last year. Though, in truth, we’re just catching up to what Italy has known for over two decades—Luisa Ranieri is a star. For Ranieri, it’s back to work as normal, looking ahead to the next challenge and the next project to throw herself into. The current project in question is the second season of The Investigations of Lolita Lobosco, of which she stars as the titular character. In conversation with ARF, the celestially-stunning actress talks about her 10-year plan, empathy in acting, and what it means to be a Neapolitan soul.
Luke: Your career has spanned over 20 years, in which you’ve worked on a lot of different types of projects and many different mediums—how would you like to challenge yourself artistically over the next decade?
Luisa: If I think of a challenge to which I can dedicate part of my future, it is being behind the camera. In cinema, the one who really tells a story is the director. He especially decides the way in which a story is told and where to place the accents. After a lifetime of interpreting the wishes of a director, I’d like to try and change my perspective.
Luke: What do you consider your greatest strength as an actress?
Luisa: I believe I am a person who does not approach things rationally in life, but rather with guts. It is the emotional side that makes me not only act, but also understand things and people. I think that this side allows me to understand characters and also be able to render them at their best. So I would definitely say my empathy and my emotional side.
Luke: In your two most internationally recognised movies, Eros (2003) and The Hand of God (2021) you’re offered as an object of male-desire to certain characters and even the audience, but also presented as empowered in many ways. In regards to sexuality and the male-gaze, there’s always been a fine line between exploitation and empowerment. How important or challenging has it been for you to find balance and ownership in the representation of your body/sensuality, not just in these films, but in the industry as a whole?
Luisa: The two films you mentioned are by two great masters of Italian and international cinema, Michelangelo Antonioni and Paolo Sorrentino. Although very different in their poetics, their writing is already in itself a guarantee for the search of that balance you were talking about. It is true, however, that every balance is never static, and must be sought and rediscovered on every occasion.
Luke: You star as the titular character in the popular series The Investigations of Lolita Lobosco. Of your initial casting, Gabriella Genisi said that you are able to perfectly carry the “Neapolitan soul” of the character. What attributes does a “Neapolitan soul” possess and how have you applied them to this character?
Luisa: Passion rules Naples. It is a unique city, a magical and special place, where the impossible becomes possible, a place that finds its vitality in the thousands of contradictions that agitate it. A place where we reinvent ourselves every day, where tolerance and hospitality are part of the city and where traditions are very strong, as well as it is the drive towards the future, towards the new. I tried to give the character of Lolita Lobosco, who is actually from Bari, a bit of my Neapolitan soul. She is a passionate modern woman from the south who lives in the present but at the same time claims her roots and past that characterises her strong culture.
Luke: You have worked with some of the masters of Italian cinema. Who are the contemporary Italian directors you would like to work with, and why?
Luisa: The list is long because, since I am very curious, I would like to work with everyone. I tell you those who are in Italy at the top of the list that I haven’t yet had the pleasure and the good fortune to meet professionally: Marco Bellocchio, Giuseppe Tornatore, Paolo Virzì, Matteo Garrone, Gabriele Mainetti, Francesca Archibugi.