Rome Open City (1945)
d. Roberto Rossellini
Criterion Collection #497
I'm sure scholars, critics and the filmmaker himself would take issue with the statement that Rome Open City in any way "invented" Italian Neorealism, but it certainly was a breakout international success as an example of that style of film making. Criterion Collection is thick with the Italian Neorealist, Rossellini in particular, who has 12 films in the collection. Neorealism is an interesting film genre because it has a concern with both authenticity and immediacy. Those are two qualities which, since the advent of Neorealism, have been present in the international film community, but were formerly not so much.
Neorealism brought more of the documentary style to the cinema, and none were better than Rossellini himself. Rome Open City as an early/first effort is more like a typical melodrama with stylistic flourishes that mark it as being different from other melodamas. The actors were professionals, not amateurs, and Rossellini used music and conventional plot points to depict the vagaries of existence in occupied Rome.
Half a century plus on, it is easy to take for granted the innovations that Rossellini brought to cinema with Rome Open City and his other films of the 40s and 50s. The composition/mise en scene ideas of Neorealism have been embraced to the point where even big budget action movies use its techniques. At the same time Rome Open City holds up in 2013 as an eminently watchable film. Inexplicably dividied into two parts despite a run time of under two hours, Rome Open City fairly races by till a bloody denouement which is predictable but still packs an emotional wallop.