Cutie and the Boxer

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“Intricately profound… a non-fiction love story about a couple whose bond transcends their impediments.” — Eric Kohn, Indiewire

Year: 2013
Country: USA
Running time: 82 mins
Genres: Love stories

Photography: Zachary Heinzerling
Producers: Zachary Heinzerling, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Patrick Burns, Sierra Pettengill
Editor: David Teague
Sound: Mark Phillips
Music: Yasuaki Shimizu

With: Ushio Shinohara, Noriko Shinohara, Alexander Kukai Shinohara

Festivals: Sundance, Tribeca, San Francisco 2013
Directing Award (Documentary), Sundance Film Festival 2013

This affectionate, though hardly sugar-coated, portrait of two artists you probably have never heard of may well prove an NZIFF favourite.

Cutie and the Boxer is equally inspiring, funny and wise. On its surface, this fly-on-the-wall documentary simply shines a spotlight on adorable husband and wife artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, but filmmaker Zachary Heinzerling masterfully plumbs depths to give us a greater understanding of their marriage in relation to the different art they create…

Ushio moved to New York City in the late 60s, gaining acclaim (but little commercial success) for his bold work, which included making motorcycle sculptures out of discarded items like cardboard and doing so-called ‘boxing’ paintings, which consist of him punching a large canvas with boxing gloves dabbed in paint… Initially, it seems that Ushio’s career will be the main emphasis, but slowly Heinzerling reveals his film to be a study of Ushio and Noriko, who is more than 20 years younger than Ushio and moved to New York dreaming of becoming an artist herself before falling in love with this charismatic, talented man…

Utilizing Noriko’s autobiographical drawings, which the documentary animates with quiet simplicity, Cutie and the Boxer gives us a sense of how she has been the strong foundation for a marriage approaching 40 years. But rather than making her a martyr, the film reveals this couple’s dynamic to be far more nuanced…

Ultimately, the movie celebrates different kinds of commitment, whether it be to the perils of being an artist or to the uncertainty of marriage. Neither pursuit is for the faint of heart.” — Tim Grierson, Screendaily