SXSW Film Review: “Gary Numan: Android In La La Land”

Like most people, I mostly knew of Gary Numan from his 1979 hit “Cars,” a track that reached number one on the charts in England and cracked the top ten here in America. It’s an essential new wave classic but, aside from a few other scattered tracks, I have not ever known much about his career.

Co-directed by Steve Read and Rob Alexander, this documentary takes us inside Numan’s life during a period of intense upheaval. Along with his wife Gemma and three daughters, Gary is in the process of relocating from Great Britain to Los Angeles when the film begins. While it wasn’t his first time to live in the U.S., it was the first time to do it with his full family in tow.

Gary Numan: Android In La La Land. Photo by Steve Read

Gary Numan: Android In La La Land. Photo by Steve Read

A devoted father and husband, Numan’s compulsion to get back to making music is driven, in part, by the desire to be able to take care of them. Gemma herself started out as a fan, going to see him play live starting when she was only 15. It took nearly a decade for the two of them to begin dating, but they’ve now been together for over 20 years and it’s clear that their relationship is one of mutual respect and kindness. She seems to be the key to keeping his demons at bay and allowing him to embrace his creativity.

Read and Alexander present us with a profoundly intimate look at Numan’s creative process. He admits that “much of making a record is getting it wrong.” Once upon a time, Numan gave the world highly stylized, robot-like performances. In the present day, he gets bogged down by expectations (from himself just as much as the outside world) but never stops trying despite a battle with depression and the reality that sales in the record industry are nowhere near what they once were when he started out over 35 years ago.

“Gary Numan: Android In La La Land” shows us the recording and mastering process for an album that would become 2013’s “Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind).” His highest charting album since 1983, we also sit in on the promotion process, which includes live radio performances and packed in-store appearances. Startlingly honest and sincere, this is essential viewing for fans of Numan and electronic music.

Other screenings: 9 p.m. Tuesday, Alamo Slaughter; 10 p.m. Thursday, Topfer Theatre; 11 a.m. Saturday, Stateside Theatre


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