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New Jobs movie: A quieter, more authentic portrait

Ken Gagne | Sept. 7, 2015
This isn't an actor's portrayal; it instead relies on archival footage and interviews of people who knew Jobs personally.

It wasn't just his customers, but his friends and family, who fell under Jobs' spell. Bob Belleville, director of engineering for Macintosh, 1982 -1985, was the most emotional of Gibney's guests. Describing Jobs as a cross between James Dean, Princess Diana, John Lennon and Santa Claus, Belleville reflected, "It's easy to make chaos, and if you're comfortable with it, you can use it as a tool [as Jobs did] to get other people involved in his schemes. He's seducing you, he's vilifying you, and he's ignoring you. You're in one of those three states." The demands of launching the Macintosh cost Belleville his wife and children, but in hindsight, it seems a price he was willing to pay: "It was a life well and fully lived -- even if it was a bit expensive for those of us who were close."

Jobs, who believed simplicity was the ultimate sophistication, fell short in this area as well, but the film does not shy from moments of subtlety. When playing an old interview with Kobun Chino, an early mentor of Jobs', the film makes a one-time transition from live action to animation, using simple black-and-white line art to depict master and student. This sequence is both surprising and elegant: it stands out for being so different from the rest of the film, yet the transition to and from this sequence and its slower, simpler pace represent something Jobs never achieved. It dovetails with Brennan's observation that Jobs sought and attained enlightenment yet retained his ego. "He blew it," she sighs -- referring not to his commercial or design success, but to his humanity.

Jobs didn't seem willing or able to connect with humanity, his own or others' -- so he instead created a company that connected with people, and which helped them connect with each other. Said Jobs, "People sometimes forget that they're unique. The whole computer industry wants to forget about the humanist side and just focus on the technology. Can we do more than just spreadsheets and word processors? Can we help you express yourself in richer ways?"

It's almost as though Apple were a proxy for something Jobs lacked in his own life: If consumers loved Apple, then it's almost as if they loved him. Said Kottke, Apple employee number 12, of Jobs being adopted at birth, "That was clearly a very defining image in his life: both that he was rejected and he was special." That dichotomy would resonate throughout Jobs' 56 years.

Retellings of Jobs' life often omit details of his 12 years away from Apple; after all, "Apple was a 30-year sitcom, and Steve was the main character," said McKenna. Likewise, except for a brief interview with NeXT engineer Michael Hawley, The Man in the Machine glosses over that era and how it affected Jobs. We instead return to Apple, where Andy Grignon, senior manager of the iPhone, paints Jobs as a Godfather-like figure one crossed at one's own peril.

 

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