9 April 2014 | l_rawjalaurence
A Candid Portrait of a 40-Year Artistic Marriage
CUTIE AND THE BOXER is a no-holds barred documentary focusing on the 40- year marriage of Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko. Ushio established his reputation in Japan as a leading avant-garde artist before emigrating to the United States; since his marriage in the early Seventies, it's clear he has assumed a dominant role as artist and alcoholic, seldom taking much notice of his wife, also an artist. Zachary Heinzerling's film shows how Noriko carved out a niche for herself by creating designs for herself, focusing on a character called Cutie and her struggles for self-determination. The subjects of such designs are very closely related to Noriko's own life; it's clear she has experienced a difficult time trying to put up with a difficult husband - who throughout his life has found it hard to make a living through his art - and a son who drinks too much. It's a tribute to her stoicism that she not only manages to retain her artistic voice, but creates designs of her own that satirize her husband. Ushio, by now a reformed alcoholic, views his wife's paintings indulgently; they don't represent a threat to his masculinity, nor his status as an artist. In truth Noriko's designs are far more expressive than her husband's - although Ushio claims to produce material that will show a "new" artist, he only ever produces copies of work created several decades previously. Director Heinzerling makes no judgment on either of the protagonists, but leaves us to make up our own minds, What is perhaps most admirable is the way the couple have stayed together through thick and thin - despite their differences, they are obviously still in love with one another.