09/28/2013 11:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

NYFF Guide, Week 1: Top 5 Must-See Films

Like many events of its kind, the New York Film Festival, which is celebrating its 51st year of existence, is a massive event. This year, there are 36 films just on the main slate, and that's not counting the various sidebars. All together, it can be an impossible thing to navigate. As the festival opens Friday with the premiere of Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks, ARTINFO has chosen its top five films to see in the first week of the festival.


A still from Zhangke Jia's "A Touch of Sin" / 2013 Xstream Pictures/ Courtesy of New York Film Festival

A Touch of Sin

Chinese director Jia Zhangke's deeply bitter and subversive film takes a swing at a nation undergoing massive development while ignoring the consequences. Not for the faint at heart, the film bursts forth as a set of repressed emotions that cannot be contained any longer, and its disturbing vignettes, each one more violent than the next, will stick with you long after you exit the theater.

Stranger by the Lake

A moody tale of a murder at a lakefront cruising spot, director Alain Guiraudie spins a deceptively simple story that contemplates the boundaries between lust and violence while, all the way up through its startling final shot, will shake you to your core.

When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism

Romanian director Corneliu Proumboiu's new film uses extremely long takes and a quiet intensity to meditate on the limits of cinema. Centering on a director who is having trouble finishing his most recent film, and keeping together his relationship with one of the film's actresses, this is not for the viewer who is easily distracted. Stick with the film and its rigid formal structure, and you'll walk away thinking differently about the possibilities of cinema.

Child of God

Did you know that James Franco has a film at the festival this year? An adaptation of a novel by Cormac McCarthy, this one is sure to shock viewers. Franco presents an unrelenting portrait of a maniac, complete with murder and necrophilia. It's not the best film at the festival by a long shot, but Franco certainly has a unique vision and is unafraid to confront an audience.


Some people complain that French director Philippe Garrel has been making the same film over and over again, for four decades. Those people are missing out on one of the greatest working filmmakers who, although he explores similar themes in all his films, captures emotional honesty better than anyone before or since.

-Craig Hubert, ARTINFO

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