marxism today (prologue) is unelaborate art. If it was on TV you would think it a more or less ordinary documentary, with just one or two creative flourishes.
Once, the voice of a presenter from East German TV is faded down and music is faded over the top. The track is a bittersweet instrumental in the mould of Stereolab.
Music is again used towards the end of the film, where library footage is speeded up in a time lapse sequence. Here the shots are of a sports ceremony in the former GDR.
Documentaries are not meant to bend the facts in this way. By adding these touches, artist Phil Collins offers strange feelings which go beyond the usual interest and empathy of the genre.
He puts a contemporary spin on the past. The presenter’s words are of less interest now than his ambience. The socialist training regime of the athletes could do with some fast forward.
Which brings us to the third arty flourish, a tangential title for the film. This is not about the past. The three former East Germans who are interviewed in it are still alive and well.
Collins keeps his 10-minute prologue short. As the maker of a documentary, he cannot film the future. But as an artist, he can exhibit part of history and make it seem new.
This film is showing as part of Phil Collins: marxism today at Cornerhouse, Manchester, until 28 November 2010.