BY DAYNA PAPALEO
“Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview”
(NR), directed by Paul Sen
Screens Friday at the Dryden
Now that I’m older, I like to indulge in the occasional rant against the whippersnappers, who still don’t know how good they have it. Because when I was a kid, my personal stereo was a little too big to fit in my pocket, and if anyone phoned me, dadgummit, I didn’t find out until I got home. And don’t get me started on those computers, which were all c:\ this, and MS-DOS that. Introduction to Computers was the only class I ever failed (my secret shame — well, until a second ago), and I certainly never envisioned that I’d actually have to use one. And then, like many others similarly afflicted, I met a Mac.
When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs lost his long battle with pancreatic cancer last fall at the age of 56, words like “pioneer” and “visionary” got bandied about, and with very good reason. But Jobs’ road to icon status had its share of detours, and the engrossing documentary “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview” takes place during one of them. It’s 1995, and interviewer (and one-time Apple employee) Bob Cringely is dialoguing with Jobs for his PBS series “Triumph of the Nerds.” At this point in time Jobs is the CEO of NeXT, Inc., the company he began after being forced out of Apple 10 years prior. But six months after this interview, the suffering Apple would buy NeXT, and by the end of 1997 Jobs would be running his old company again. And if you use an iPhone, iPod, iPad, or iTunes, you know how that turned out.
So while the Jobs in “The Lost Interview” (um, shouldn’t it be “The Found Interview”?) may not be on top at that exact moment, he’s in a unique place from which to view the past and anticipate the future. We learn how his adolescent affinity for electronics quickly became a driving passion after meeting the like-minded Steve Wozniak, with whom Jobs would later create Apple. (Jobs recounts programing a computer to make free long-distance calls, eventually, to their surprise, getting through to the Vatican.) It’s always humbling to hear about the genesis of an item that we now take for granted, and the groundbreaking Apple model of color graphics (Woz’s idea) combined with the user-friendly interface that Jobs had seen in action at Xerox’s Palo Alto R&D changed the game.
And though it’s a little bittersweet to see Jobs looking so healthy in his frameless glasses and ubiquitous black mock turtleneck, “The Lost Interview” provides valuable insight into the mind of a man who not only created a product but an entire lifestyle. Honestly, the film itself is pretty much unreviewable, however, in that it is what it is: one fixed camera, clunky topic transitions, and the unedited thoughts of a quietly charismatic man totally in love with his job. Gracious even when holding forth on his initial ouster from Apple as well as his competition (an unabashed admirer of their technology, Jobs chides Microsoft for having “absolutely no taste”), Jobs also shows startling prescience in 1995 about the future of computers as they transition from computation to communication: “I think that the web is gonna be profound in what it does to our society.”