Tuesday, November 08, 2016

DOC NYC ’16: 95 and 6 to Go

Kimi Takesue’s late grandfather had great taste in music. Thanks to his influence, the soundtrack of her documentary includes renditions of “Autumn Leaves” by Stan Getz, “The Way You Look Tonight” by Fred Astaire, and “Aren’t You Glad You’re You” by Chet Baker. His influence extended beyond music, as viewers will see in 95 and 6 to Go (trailer here), her highly personal portrait of Tom Takesue, which screens during DOC NYC 2016.

After her grandmother’s death, Takesue returned to Honolulu to care for her grandfather, but she found he was already ready to move on. As the first-generation son of Japanese immigrants, he learned to be tough at an early age. He grew up during the Depression, served during World War II, and regularly endured the Hawaiian rains as a career USPS employee. Yet, the filmmaker’s probing periodically reveals some of his bottled-up feelings.

Clearly, the death of her lovely aunt while just in her early thirties remains a difficult subject for him. He also seems to carry some guilt regarding his marriage to her grandmother. Of course, he is obviously not the introspective type, so some of our conclusions might be erroneous inferences from subjects evaded and conversations cut short.

There is a long tradition of exquisitely intimate documentary filmmaking in Japan, including work by Naomi Kawase and Mami Sunada’s Death of a Salaryman. Yet, the poignancy of the latter film (which follows the director’s recently retired father after he is diagnosed with advanced stage cancer) is largely missing from 95 and 6 to Go (a title suggested by her grandfather, a football fan, when given a six-month prognosis at the age of ninety-five).

Clearly, a great deal is hashed out between the filmmaker and grandfather. It is also fascinating to hear memories of what pre-war life was like for Hawaii’s Japanese-American community. However, that still does not make it a strikingly cinematic film.

There is certainly value in taking stock in a long, dignified, and productive life, but the film could easily be edited down to an hour for a PBS broadcast. Nice but possibly too modest for the ticket price, 95 and 6 to Go screens this Saturday (11/12) as part of this year’s DOC NYC.