Cate Le Bon’s “Crab Day” Short Is Strange and Unsettling, and It’s a Blessing That It Is

The eleven-minute experimental experience is more than you might want, but it’s exactly what you need.

The final shot of Cate Le Bon’s Crab Day short film, directed by Phil Collins (the Turner Prize–nominated filmmaker, not the time-travelling hipster), is of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation apartment building in Berlin. This specific building, built in 1957, is just one in a series, an overall theme of which is the unconventional use of space. Apartments span several stories, and room layout is unpredictable and off-kilter.

Like most influential modern art, the Unité d’Habitation series is not without its detractors. Peter Blake (the architect and critic, not the Sgt. Pepper’s cover artist) pointed out that the buildings lack functionality in favor of vision (the childrens’ rooms are said to be unaccommodating, for instance). The same sort of “criticism” could be made of Cate Le Bon’s blossoming catalog of music, if you consider success in music to be dictated by functionality over vision.

Will Crab Day, her upcoming solo release, be functional in a Starbucks? Or in the background of a Lexus ad? No, but it’s not supposed to be. Like DRINKS, her recent collaboration with Tim Presley of White Fence, Crab Day is clearly meant to challenge rather than assuage. Don’t like it? Fine, but don’t dislike it for the wrong reasons, like Peter Blake did with Le Corbusier. In that instance, how ’bout simply suggesting that families with children don’t move into a Unité d’Habitation building? And to that end, I simply recommend to you that you not pull over your coworkers to watch this Crab Day short like it’s the new “Damn, Daniel.” (If you want a new meme to show them, I might recommend “Magnum Dong,” which is much more SFW than it sounds.)

Cate Le Bon’s incredibly weird new offering is like a trip to Jack Torrance’s Overlook Hotel—but minus the murders and plus a tab of acid. It’s not going to make sense if you try to make sense of it, and I feel a little silly in even beginning to preface the film with anything at all. Just watch it and remember that the point of a certain type of modern art—whether it be an apartment building or psychedelic music—is to remind you of just how boring it is to be a success.

Crab Day is out April 15 via Drag City.


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