If you’re a Gary Numan fan then look no further than Steve Read and Rob Alexander’s intimate expose Gary Numan: Android in La La Land. Numan has always been a figure of interest for the public. The synth-pop pioneer pre-dated Kraftwerk, so when he strutted out on stage, his face plastered with white greasepaint, his motions limited to a sensual silky gyrating, people were arrested. Numan, though, wasn’t as confidant as he might have looked.
The documentary looks at everything, from Numan’s early life, first hits, worldwide success, bankruptcy, depression, and slow disappearance from the public eye. This documentary is specifically a look at Numan’s career in the context of his 2013 album Splinter and his attempt to break the American market. It’s a great idea, to celebrate everything Numan on the eve of his much-awaited return from a 6-year hiatus. And it’s not just a glorified album launch. This is a varied, comprehensive, and intimate look at the man behind the greasepaint. It’s a studied and careful exploration of what Gary Numan is behind closed doors and that’s equal parts sad and empowering. Rarely do we get to see male depression (or the realities of post-fame life) discussed as candidly yet, now a married, well-humoured father of three, Numan opens up readily.
Perhaps that’s the most enjoyable part of the film. Numan is happy to discuss his early years and is openly disappointed at some of his decisions. He’s also uncharacteristically chatty when it comes to his persona and the ins-and-outs of its construction. Interestingly, Numan himself correlates his appreciation of machines and machine-noise to his Asperger’s, and in that context his career and persona are seen as a way of existing in the modern world rather than simply a coping mechanism.
Numan is a genius, but I’m biased. I’ve been a fan of his since I first heard Are Friends Electric? back in college. This documentary just made me appreciate him as a man, icon, and pioneer, way more than I already did, and it’ll do that for you too.
Dir. Steve Read, Rob Alexander.