I once asked director Dylan Mars Greenberg (Dark Prism, Amityville: Vanishing Point) what she would do if she could move beyond the shoestring budgets she is stuck with. “Shoot in a studio,” she replied. A studio is a very controlled environment place where she could work her movie magic of green screens and fairy dust without the intrusiveness of on location, where the real world intrudes upon the fantasy world in both directions. It hasn’t happened yet and Greenberg’s post-apocalyptic vision of a Blade Runner drear Lower East Side of Manhattan for Sam Huber’s devastated “Little by Little,” makes you wonder how she could possibly replicate that feel in the studio.
Taken from Huber’s soulful new album Confused, “Little by Little” foregoes the funk for the sound and vision of Frank Sinatra on the album cover of In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, as performed by Teddy Pendergrass if he was covering David Bowie circa “Wild Is the Wind.” Huber is broken here, and everything inside the song finds no more like wishful hoping: her love has slowly died, if she came back he could piece his life together, but she hasn’t. Shot in black and white with splashes of color as distilled as the whisky in the glass he is drinking from, Huber is the study of a man near the end of it, he wanders the streets, the rain highlighted in the studio so it gives the sad cement a lonely Sunday evening feel, it is an ambient dark glow. Huber controls and extorts himself, building to “I’m dying, I can’t live without you” like a character from a Samuel Beckett play: I can’t go on, I’ll go on.
Given the ex-huber-rant nature of both Greenberg and Huber, this works against the grain, it keeps on erupting into purple and lilac and then retiring back into black and white, everything here is tight as it unspools and falls apart. But like all fine art, the lack of control, the breaking down is very finely tuned. Greenberg uses color and black and white, the color is not happy, but it is intense and it is modern, it has that Japanese neon nuclear glow he is so great at, as though Sam is being buried in radioactive fallout. The black and white is a film noir approach like something Ridley Scott might apply. Or Nic Roeg for that matter, the tension of a red cloak in “Don’t Look Now” or the inverted whiteness of “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”
Between the two, Huber and Greenberg add another jewel in the protean True Groove catalog of sounds and visions, broken apart it fulfills the glory of a shared story, in this case a heartbroken one.