In the late 1970s an enigmatic young musician erupted into the limelight and created a signature sound that would resonate throughout an age and influence entire generations that followed. Through depression, anxiety, family strife and financial woes, Gary Numan struggled to maintain his livelihood while juggling a family, a career and dreams of the future. Over thirty years a once-bright and blazing artist flickered to glowing embers and six years of silence… until now.
Covering the inception of Numan’s seminal works, his childhood, family life, the prospect of creating a forthcoming album and a fresh new chapter in America, the candid conversations with Numan, along with his wife and daughters help to humanize a distinctly otherworldly persona. Steve Read and Rob Alexander paint a vivid picture of an ordinary man bestowed with extraordinary talents but it’s not all misty-eyed nostalgia.
Framing the documentary within the context of a creative surge, the recording and subsequent release of his album, Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) would ordinarily smack of cynicism IF the aforementioned LP hadn’t been released back in 2013. Instead we are given insight into Numan’s debilitating nervousness, his fractured relationship with his parents and coping with Asperger’s syndrome.
Transposing his family and studio from the luscious, green tranquility of the English countryside to the palm tree speckled circus of Los Angeles could have led to fish-out-of-water struggles but we watch as the Numans adapt, flourish and carve out a new life for themselves in La La Land.
The balance of performance footage, talking heads and contemporary imagery never dwells too long in any stage of Gary Numan’s life or career as the narrative structure deftly weaves through.
This is no Soul Boys of the Western World, slavishly documenting the heady heights and the crushing lows, neatly wrapping the final reel in a comeback tour resolution.
Numan’s fans haven’t left his side in three decades, and when those fans include the likes of Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, the true extent of an artist staying relevant in the contemporary musical organism becomes clear. Android in La La Land is a biographical work that is triumphant in exposing the mechanic in the machine, affixing a lens on the shy talent beneath.
Gary Numan: Android in La La Land is in cinemas August 26th.
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