Mark Toscano

Film Preservationist & Curator

Voted for

Asparagus1979Suzan Pitt
Babobilicons1981Daina Krumins
Chronicle of a Lying Spirit by Kelly Gabron1992Cauleen Smith
Close-up1989Abbas Kiarostami
Down Hear1972Mike Henderson
Dyketactics1974Barbara Hammer
BARA NO SORETSU1970Toshio Matsumoto
Pink Flamingos1972John Waters
Taking Off1971Milos Forman
Tropical Malady2004Apichatpong Weerasethakul



1979 USA

This is an unparalleled, visionary expression of radical feminist subversion through sheer individuality, creativity, and revolutionary action. Everything about this amazing film is Suzan Pitt saying, “Here, I’ll show you what the fuck I can do!” and the result is this inspired masterpiece.



Many distinctive, unusual, and deeply creative films are tagged with descriptors like “unique”, “singular”, “one of a kind”, and so forth, but in most of those cases, I’ve been hard pressed to truly agree. But I am convinced that this utterly original film by artist Daina Krumins is one of the strangest, most eye-opening, and genuinely unique films ever made. Employing stop motion animation and eccentric analog compositing to achieve its startling vision, every idea in the film seems to be an uncompromised expression of Krumins’ remarkable imagination. I’ve had many opportunities to share this film in screenings and classes, and it is always met with equally enthusiastic bewilderment and excitement. Its utter individualism as a work of creativity is massively inspiring – there’s absolutely nothing else like it.

Chronicle of a Lying Spirit by Kelly Gabron


Though made when Cauleen Smith was an undergraduate student, the complexity, sophistication, and formal ingenuity of this film are all remarkable, and its vision and heart – both intimately personal and vividly conscious of the contingent contexts and identities outside of her own – are insightful and powerful to a staggering degree. I’ve seen this film many dozens of times and it always floors me, and every time I’ve shown it to a public audience or a roomful of students, it floors all of them too. It’s ahead of its time and yet always right-on-time, multidimensionally conscious, and utterly engrossing.


1989 Iran

To me, this film represents a truly singular and transcendent model for a whole other level of empathic cinema, and one which has yet to be matched.

Down Hear


Not a widely seen film (yet), but I was thunderstruck on my first viewing (around 2007 early in the process of working on restoring Henderson’s short films). The intensity and humanity of this film feels urgently but deceptively provocative, and it expresses a personal sociopolitical desire that effortlessly scales from the individual to the global. Mike and his brother Raymond act out a pantomime history of Black America in Mike’s kitchen, as a means to pose a question about agency, liberation, and legacy that is deeply cathartic and inspiring in its economy and imagination. This is one of those films about which you think, "How could this film do and say so much, and so powerfully, in such a short amount of time?"



Barbara Hammer has numerous major works, but this truly groundbreaking early film of hers approached lesbian sensuality as something tactile, connected, erotic, loving, and generative, not to mention as a sensorial, near-hallucinatory experience to be shared and celebrated. By embedding her radical queer and feminist politics into a textural, experiential, and ephemeral interplay of bodies and gestures, she insisted on a space and language for lesbian identity that was rooted in feeling - physical, emotional, and intellectual.


1970 Japan

For me, the exhilaratingly interwoven threads of this film – the formal play, the inspired and absurd humor, the genuine and/or satirical nods to political art-activism, the sophisticated and playful exploration of gender and sexuality, the sheer creative audacity and fun of it all – blows the entire French New Wave out of the water.

Pink Flamingos

1972 USA

I’m thrilled to give a Top Ten spot to this film in complete earnestness. I can think of no other film that redefined transgressive/underground cinema so deeply and absurdly entertainingly, while making it seem so ridiculously fun. Seeing this film at age 17 while living in a shitty suburb, vast and previously unthinkable vistas of cultural expression and identity were revealed to me, and I know I’m not the only one who had that experience; by now there are surely many millions of us around the world. Now if that doesn’t make a film of list-worthy significance, then what does?

Taking Off

1971 USA

Comedies don’t get nearly enough credit or love in lists like this. This is one of a very few films I’ll always go see if it’s showing in a cinema anywhere in town. The rich sensitivity and tenderness of the film is somehow in perfect balance with its inspired and extended laughs - often within the same scene. The intuitive grasp of the crux of a generation gap – it could be any generation gap, really – is humanistic and hilarious, and the intimate expressivity of the film’s camera work and editing surpasses Forman’s more commonly acclaimed Loves of a Blonde. It’s also just a film I dearly love, and have been thrilled to share it with countless friends, who all then dearly love it.

Tropical Malady

2004 France, Thailand, Germany, Italy, Switzerland

The fascinating predator/prey interchange going on in this transfixing film’s two halves is intricately layered without losing an organic fluidity that makes it so utterly compelling. It’s delicate, intimate, sexy, tense, dramatic, carefree, fraught, mysterious, and a million other feelings all co-existing in a rich emotional ecosystem, and woven together in a cinematic language that is expressly sensual and textural. I think Apichatpong’s overall body of work is of major significance to cinema culture, but this one remains my personal favorite, and is another film I’ll go see in a cinema any chance I get.

Further remarks

Obviously a top ten in the most basic sense is impossible, and I don’t typically think in list terms about things, but these are ten films:

– which have made a huge impact on me;

– which I think of as cinematic/cultural lightning bolts, affecting, challenging, and changing the art and culture of cinema, what it’s for, and how we connect with it;

– and which I think are undeniably great and significant in numerous ways that elude simple explanation in a top ten list.