Monday, April 27, 2015

SFIFF: Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

The 58th San Francisco International Film Festival opened last Thursday night at the Castro Theatre, with Alex Gibney's new documentary Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine. Executive Director Noah Cowan & Director of Programming Rachel Rosen introduced the screening, & Mr. Gibney was in attendance.

The film walks us from Jobs's teenage interest in computers through the spontaneous memorials that appeared at Apple stores when he died. We get plenty of archival footage & pithy interview clips from colleagues & journalists, as well as a bit of animation. Though the film covers a lot of ground, Mr. Gibney presents no new information. It was interesting to hear from Chrisann Brennan, the mother of Jobs's daughter Lisa, & fun to see a 1980s commerical for the Sony Walkman. The festival audience particularly enjoyed Apple manager Andy Grignon's reminiscence of the nerve-racking atmosphere behind the scenes of the 1st iPhone demo.

The film is narrated by Mr. Gibney & is also a personal essay in which he asks why there was such a public outpouring of grief when Jobs died. After all, Steve Jobs was famously a jerk in both his professional & personal life, & Mr. Gibney reminds us that Apple can cheat on its taxes, exploit workers in foreign countries & backdate executive stock options like the best of them. He suggests that the devices that Jobs created are so personal that users see themselves in them, & so users were sad when Jobs died because it meant there would be no more devices like these.

Mr. Gibney pointedly turned on his iPhone at the start of his Q&A with Ms. Rosen immediately following the screening. He described his interview style as "more like Columbo than Sherlock," & we learned that he approached Apple for the film, but the company with the world's largest public valuation said it "didn't have the resources" to help him.

I ended my evening at the festival by attending the opening night party, which was held at Madame Tussaud's in Fisherman's Wharf. Many of the waxworks are of movie stars, so the venue makes sense, but I found the statues creepy, & I feared being mistaken for a waxwork myself.

§ Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine
Director: Alex Gibney
2015, USA, 127 mins.

The 58th San Francisco International Film Festival
April 23, 2015, 7:00 p.m.
The Castro Theatre

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