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Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine 

Wednesday, Sep 2 2015
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Alex Gibney has been sorting through the lures and lies of a lot of huge personality cults lately. Not to psychoanalyze the guy too much, but he might have a slight fetish for male mavericks confusing the currents of the cultural mainstream (or at least a white boomer's idea of the mainstream). It was inevitable that the late Apple honcho would join the peculiar pantheon of Gibney documentary subjects, which includes Lance Armstrong, Julian Assange, Hunter S. Thompson, and Jack Abramoff. To their unruly ranks let us now add the paradigm-shifting, partner-exploiting, employee-abusing, sweatshop-abetting, handicapped-parking-space-taking, paternity-denying, visionary genius and monster Steve Jobs. An early glimpse at the big picture includes iPad candles at tearful vigils after Jobs' death, overlaid with Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Jobs loved Dylan, Gibney tells us in narration, maybe because Dylan wasn't just one thing, either. With no shortage of character witnesses — there are lots of interviews with guys wearing little round glasses — Gibney's portrait is dense with telling biographical detail. And it is undeniably fascinating to look back on how this life progressed. Here, in grainy black-and-white, the young, vulpine Jobs flips off a monolithic IBM logo; there, in gleaming video, the decidedly more vulture-like, now salt-and-pepper man soaks up ovations in his famous product launches. That's on us, of course, and Gibney's one of us: citizens of a world willing to enable a technology entrepreneur with "the focus of a monk but none of the empathy."

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Jonathan Kiefer

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SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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