GENIUS OR JERK? Four years after the Apple co-founder's death, 'Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine' makes the case for both.
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine celebrates Jobs' accomplishments while demagnetizing his cult of personality. The thought-provoking interviews flow down a stream of music from one of Jobs' favorites, Bob Dylan—the evocative, sensitive music of a man also capable of being a nasty piece of work.
Chrisann Brennan, the mother of Jobs' child, describes the man's callousness here as she did in her memoir, where she wrote, "Steve's lack of fair play seems shameless to me." Bob Belleville, a weeping former Apple exec, quotes the eulogy he wrote, recalling that "Santa Claus" was one of the faces of Steve.
There are still a lot of people who believe in Santa, remembering the advent of the iPod, the iMac, the iPad. Director Alex Gibney's film will come across as blasphemy to the kind of people who put "#iSad" on their Facebook pages on that October day four years ago.
Perhaps little crimes indicate indifference to bigger ones. Jobs was an able-bodied jerk who took handicapped parking spaces. But Gibney checks off a bigger roster: Apple's tax sheltering $137 billion overseas; the company's stinginess to charities under Jobs; the suicide-wracked subcontractor Foxconn; the downstreaming of pollution and unsafe working conditions; the gaming of stock options.
One tidbit we see here: a vintage magazine advertisement showing an iteration of the Apple computer that sold for $666.66. It was sold with a logo that's the symbol of temptation and the Fall of Man.
The only way to fully appreciate these magic little machines is to understand that they're the result of ceaseless health-ruining, family-fracturing labor by people whose names we will never know. Belleville describes Jobs' career as "a life well and fully lived," yet Jobs' struggle never ended. His designs grew obsolete, like the commodities they are. Considering them is like considering Jobs' life: you don't know whether to marvel over the achievement or mourn over all the waste.
'Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine' opens Sept. 4 at the Rialto Cinemas, 6868 McKinley St., Sebastopol. 707.525.4840.