"Meet Tom Takesue. By the time granddaughter Kim Takesue's intimate portrait is over, you may feel close to the loquacious and still agile Japanese American widower still mourning his wife of over half-a-century. Framed by the astonishing beauty of his Hawaiian retirement cottage, the old guy doesn't take himself too seriously and has some refreshingly candid memories of his late wife."
"A film that perhaps less wittingly revolves around mealtime: Kimi Takesue’s 95 And 6 To Go, which features the director’s grandfather on camera preparing or indulging home meals while reflecting on his past, as well as his granddaughter’s unrealized script for a cross-cultural love story. What initially feels like a conducive format for a mise of meta proportions, in which a speculative fiction is scaffolded within a documentary, reveals itself as an affectionate and occasionally circumspect portrait of familial discovery, a version on the home movie that reaches back a century to reveal a backstory ripe with love and loss but absent any shattering disclosures. The pragmatic and unsentimental widower, who has spent most of his life on Honolulu, is none too adoring of his departed wife, though his granddaughter’s persistent questioning no doubt lends to his disaffected screen persona. An unforced rhyme emerges between subject and director, in which economic hard times forced a career evaluation in each: for elder Tom, the depression saw him clamouring to gain sufficient weight to meet postal worker requirements, while artist Kimi watched her feature funding dry up when recession hit. The film is in many ways a mutually sombre homecoming; the proverbial return to care for one’s elders becomes an active accounting of the past and provokes an unforeseen source of humble creativity. The subject of Japanese American identity during the war is broached as a matter of course, thus rendering the now quotidian gestures of this resilient nonagenarian all the more affecting: doing half pushups in the kitchen, rigging a makeshift charcoal grill in the garage, and going all-out pyrotechnic for the 4th of July. "
(Jay Kuehner, Cinemascope)
"When director Kimi Takesue asks her 95-year-old grandfather if he has any advice for her on her screenplay, he says, “I’d like to see a happy ending.” But that’s just the beginning of the outpouring of commentary coming from this elderly recently-widowed Japanese-American man living in Hawaii. At first Tom Takesue, a practical man all his life, seems baffled at his granddaughter’s artistic pursuits – making films? What? He wants her to get a stable job – but after he reads the screenplay he gets hooked in by the story. He gives her scene ideas, he talks about song choices, singing some of his favorites for her. He even has the final sequence all planned out in his head, and the last song that should play. All of this conversation goes down as her grandfather sits at the kitchen eating soup, or stands in the breezeway outside the house sawing a piece of wood. Or watching television (The Sound of Music at one point), or clipping coupons for things he may (or may not) buy.
Takesue had never seen this side of her grandfather before, the inventive and artistic side. It amazed her. She began filming these conversations not for an eventual completed documentary, but as part of creating a family record. It was only later in the process that she got his blessing to try to assemble the footage into something else, the something else that has become 95 and 6 to Go.
The film is a character study of a man who has seen so much, lived through so much. Takesue interviews him about the various events in his life, his childhood, the tragic death of his mother (her kimono caught fire), being raised by his father and how that set him apart from his classmates still coddled by their mothers (he relates how it felt to be playing with his friends, who all then had to race home for dinner when called by their mothers: “I felt very very alone”), his marriage, his career plans and how those played out. His voice tells us these stories, as the director intersperses her footage with intriguing family photographs, showing scenes from a bygone era: the traditional dress of her great-grandparents’ generation, to the mod-60s beehives and suits of her grandfather’s. Tom Takesue is a funny man: sometimes deliberately, and sometimes in that surprising and unconscious way when a person is being totally honest. (His frustration with how much his new wife never wanted to do anything fun, how she fell asleep when they went to the movies, is so funny in its blunt honesty. Later, when Takesue incorporates footage of her grandmother – she, too, had lived into her 90s – she is a bubbly and funny person, calling into question the perception of her set up earlier in the film. This is an extremely effective device. So much of our lives – especially in how we look at our elders – is based on perception, which is limited. There is always more to any given story than meets the eye, if you are patient enough to peel back the layers.)
95 and 6 to Go is that rarity: a film that makes you want to be better, do better. Be aware of mortality approaching so that you can be present to the experiences of those further down the path than you are. Get your grandparents talking about their lives. Listen to them. Respect their experiences. Don’t belittle them or condescend just because they are old. They are adults, not children. Their bodies are frail but their minds are nimble. At one point, Tom Takesue reminisces about how much he loved to go dancing when he was younger, and he gets up and starts demonstrating the dances he knew, the rumba, the chacha, the tango, gliding around his linoleum floor. The film made me think of my own grandparents: how sorry I am that I never got to know my grandfathers as an adult (both died when I was a kid), and how lucky I am that I had my grandmothers around much longer. It also made me mourn again the loss of my maternal grandmother, who died last year. She suffered from dementia for the last 10 years of her life. The cruelest disease. It was terrible to miss her while she was still alive. I couldn’t help but think as I watched 95 and 6 to Go how lucky Kimi Takesue was to have this time with her grandfather. And, flip-side, how lucky Tom Takesue was to have that time with her.
Getting to know Tom Takesue is, ultimately, the point of 95 and 6 to Go, and the initial way we get to know him is through his comments on his granddaughter’s screenplay. These comments appear to have been a regular occurrence in the final years of his life, a topic he kept resurrecting, coming back to. Kimi Takesue splits up those comments throughout, giving us a sense of the time passing, and how her grandfather kept going back to the story, wanting to talk about it again. While his motives appear to be true engagement in her writing, the deeper implication is that something in her screenplay ignited his own imagination. His mind is fluid and quick. He says things to his granddaughter like, “Get a real job. Don’t waste your life.” Literally. But on the flip-side, he keeps … keeps … coming back to that story.
Joan Didion famously wrote, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” There are multiple interpretations to that thought, and you can see it play out in many different ways in Didion’s work, much of which has to do with the impossibility of ever knowing for sure what really happened. Kimi Takesue taps into that into her documentary, as the layers of the onion are peeled back, as our expectations of the story being told are up-ended, or deepened. There is, eventually, a realization that appearances are not what they seem, and that even though Tom Takesue is 95 years old, he is still … still … telling himself a story in order to live.
And so is his granddaughter. She has done so – and beautifully – in 95 and 6 to Go."
"In Kimi Takesue’s moving documentary her grandfather becomes the unexpected star of both the film she’s making, and also the screenplay she’s in the process of writing. What at first seems to be an effort on her part to entertain the recent widower, soon becomes something much more profound, as she realizes how little she knows about the soul of this man. As he gives her provocative commentary on her work - and he truly doesn’t hold back - he also exposes who he is, his fears, longings, sorrows, and his views on mortality. "
"I was very happy to see my film here; it shows it can straddle festival borders," says US filmmaker and Rutgers film professor Kimi Takesue. Her personal documentary about her Hawaiian grandfather, 95 and 6 to Go, gently explores the complexities of a man who has avoided both inspection and introspection his whole life. DocLisboa was an endorsement of its aesthetic interest.
95 and 6 to Go (you'll have to wait to the end to have the title explained) uses the spectacular Hawaiian landscape as counterpoint and commentary on the confined life of this elder. His daily routines, including the serving of his voracious appetite, become a shared joke between maker and viewer. His embrace of sentiment in popular movies and music becomes a road into the imagination of a man who has stoically trained himself to endure. Among other things, the film explores the ethics of intensely intimate filmmaking. (Patricia Aufderheide)