Like Alfred Hitchcock?s Vertigo and Stan Brakhage?s Song 7, this 1991 film by Ernie Gehr uses the hilly topography of San Francisco to create a deeply subjective cinematic space. Gehr moved to that city shortly before the 1989 earthquake, and his meditative study in perspective presents downtown San Francisco as a shifting, twisting forest of disorienting towers and watery landscapes. Filming from a glass elevator that rises up the exterior of a hotel, he subtly tilts the camera to preserve our sense of stability, training the lens on a single rooftop, then disrupts that stability with shots that are upside-down. But Gehr also turns the window of the elevator (and, by implication, the windows of neighboring skyscrapers and the moving windows of cars and buses) into a grand metaphor for cinema itself: the elevator becomes an image-making machine, and the subtle variations in its many views become more and more powerful.
By Fred Camper