Cutie and the Boxer Movie Review
Noticed by Oscar voters, this offbeat documentary explores the life of two colourful artists who have an unusual marriage. And while revealing their creative processes and the interaction between them, the film finds some potent things to say about the nature of relationships and especially about what holds opposites together.
Ushio Shinohara is a globally recognised artist best known for his boxing-glove paintings, created in one flurry of action across a vast canvas. At 80 he still has a mischievous glint in his eye, and is fairly oblivious about everyone around him, including his long-suffering wife Noriko. But she's now emerging as an artist herself with a series of cartoons depicting the life of her alter-ego Cutie, who like her arrived in America at 19 and met a 41-year-old boxing painter. Also like Noriko, Cutie immediately got pregnant and had to give up her art to take care of the family, manage the studio and keep her husband from falling apart.
Director Heinzerling gives the film a reality-TV tone by following this odd couple around as they prepare for their first joint gallery show. And along the way, we get some startlingly intimate details about their life together, augmented by Noriko's striking paintings, which are cleverly animated on-screen. Heinzerling also unearths some wonderfully telling archival footage, including TV interviews and home movies. And it's assembled together with a scruffy sense of energy that echoes Ushio and Noriko's own life.
The best sequences are the extended conversations between them, such as when they debate whether Spielberg was a better filmmaker when he was younger. Both Ushio and Noriko have huge personalities, and the way they interact is fascinating on a variety of levels, both professionally and personally. We understand their unbreakable bond, but we wonder how Norkio puts up with Ushio's drunken antics and dismissive attitude. Clearly she is working through these things in her art. So it's appropriate that their first joint show was called Love Is a Roarrr.
Cast & Crew
Director : Zachary Heinzerling
Producer : Patrick Burns, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Zachary Heinzerling, Sierra Pettengill
Starring : Noriko Shinohara, Ushio Shinohara, Alexander Kukai Shinohara, Ethan Cohen, Alexandra Munroe, Shuhei Yamatani