Cutie and the Boxer Review

Posted 3 years ago by myetvmedia

‘Cutie and the Boxer’ is a tender and unflinching portrait of contemporary artist couple Noriko Shinohara and Ushio Shinohara. Directed by Zachary Heinzerling, this documentary delves into forty years of love, life and art for the Japanese-American couple. It has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this years Academy Awards.

Residents of New York, Noriko and Ushio Shinohara’s lives have been far from ideal. Despite international recognition and critical acclaim (his Neo-Dadaist pieces have been displayed in galleries like the Guggenheim in New York and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo) Ushio’s art has never been financially successful. Nevertheless, the commitment and dedication to their art from Noriko and Ushio has been unwavering irrespective of their poverty. While their art serves as the backdrop to this documentary, the central focus of the film is the forty-year marriage between them.

At no point does Heinzerling paint the relationship between Noriko and Ushio as ideal. Nor does Noriko shy away from divulging many of the difficulties, hardships, and challenges she has faced as a result of her marriage to Ushio. Her candid account of their relationship is refreshing. Her story of their marriage and her quest for freedom and independence became the subject of her art, providing her both an outlet for expression and a pathway to her desired freedom.

Heinzerling’s lens takes us right to the center of Ushio and Noriko’s relationship with dynamic between the two laid out before us. Shortly into the film, the question at the forefront of one’s mind is, “why has Noriko stayed, how has this marriage lasted?”; the challenges (alcoholism, finances) seem overwhelming. Noriko herself comments she should have married someone more financially secure, while Ushio justifies having the relationship revolve around his art by describing himself as the genius and Noriko as average. But as the film continues the bond and connection between them becomes apparent. It’s almost as if Heinzerling has captured the relationship coming in to its own: the cumlitive years of experience together finally stabilizing the marriage before our eyes. Ushio has stopped drinking, and Noriko has found a way to assert herself through her own art. The film culminates with a joint exhibition of both Noriko and Ushio’s art entitled “Love is a Roar”. The collaboration and equal standing in the show, acts as a mirror for the blossoming of their relationship.

‘Cutie and the Boxer’ is an astute meditation on love; it’s relationship to art, and its fluctuation and development over time.

– Astrid Handling

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