Cutie And The Boxer - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Cutie And The Boxer Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ November 21, 2014
This complex portrayal follows Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, a pair of artists living in New York and trying to make a living amongst their cultural history and likeminded approach to artistic expression. Ushio's work is culturally significant, to the point where he could be featured by the Guggenheim, and has retrospectives that are already thirty years old. In comparison is the couple's present, marked by an inability to pay their rent and keep their son sober. With a history of abuse and alcoholism their past is patterned with dispute, and yet they love each other despite these troubles. Noriko's work shows their history and her pain in such vivid detail, that it's featured in a gallery. This film is complex because their art almost always seeps into their personal lives, and much of their troubles stem from feeling inadequate and depressed. This film is beyond beautiful, thanks to stunning, beatific cinematography. It's edited with extreme care, pairing together animation, found footage, and new footage of the couple, obviously in love and yet apologetic of their past. This film not only examines the artwork of a lost genius, but a love that has withstood constant controversy.
Super Reviewer
½ February 25, 2014
What first seems like a simple documentary turns out to be a complex and deeply sad portrait of an old couple of artists whose creative force derives from their many differences and conflicts together, with their art revealing a lot about their resentment and unhappiness.
Super Reviewer
February 26, 2014
This film is so well-made that it hardly even feels like a documentary. This couple acts as if the camera is not even following them around. Following the life of two struggling artists who are a questionable couple from the beginning, is one of the strongest romances I have seen in a really long time. I know it is a documentary so the emotions are genuine, but that makes no difference to me, because watching two people with this much devotion, hatred, and love for their passions and each other was breathtaking. This picture gave me a whole new perspective on life. I highly recommend this film to any aspiring artists of any sort. Whether it be paintings, drawings, filmmaking, etc. "Cutie and the Boxer" is brilliant in it's show-don't-tell aspect. Portions of the film is told through her drawings and old footage of their lives has been archived into this film. I loved every second of this film. One of the best of 2013!
Super Reviewer
August 25, 2013
'Cutie and the Boxer'. Love and art so tightly interconnected, I don't think the enduring romance would've lasted without both driving them forward. Happy moments keep these imperfect characters going, if not a Hollywood happy ending.
Super Reviewer
½ February 22, 2014
It's been a great year for documentaries, and the Academy has nominated a very impressive roster of films this time out. From the war on terror (DIRTY WARS), the Arab Spring in Cairo (THE SQUARE), a surreal look at Indonesia's gangsters who killed millions of Communists (THE ACT OF KILLING), to a warm-hearted look at the struggles of background singers (20 FEET FROM STARDOM), these are four formidable entries. The fifth nominee, CUTIE AND THE BOXER, doesn't come with an easy logline, or with the commercial heft of the Weinsteins, but it has easily earned its place among the other nominees.

Directed, shot and co-produced by Zachary Heinzerling...and full disclosure, co-produced by a friend of mine for 25 years, Lydia Dean Pilcher, CUTIE AND THE BOXER is a strange hybrid of a documentary, playing more like a stunningly shot feature film but with the layers and hard truths of the best real-life portraits. Despite my existing relationship with the producer, I have no trouble in being honest and objective here.

It's ostensibly the story of 80-year-old struggling artist, Ushio Shinohara, who paints like a man 1/4 his age. Best known for his "Boxer" works, in which he dons boxing gloves, dips them in paint and punches the hell out of a giant canvas, Ushio is a larger-than-life personality whose drive for success is singular and focused. There's a LOT of ego packed into such a tiny frame.

His marriage to Noriko Sinohara, a woman 20 years his junior, however, overwhelms any singular examination of Ushio and his work. Relegated to second banana most of her life, but a wonderful artist in her own right, Noriko discovers her voice over the course of the film. Her "CUTIE" works depict her alter-ego, a nude, pig-tailed young girl who finds her way through a crazy world. It's a classic A STAR IS BORN story, with Ushio's star fading while Noriko's is on the rise. Unwilling or unable to cede the spotlight to a woman he's treated more like a secretary, Ushio does everything in his powers to hold onto his place in the art world.

It's a well-matched fight, complete with an always- compelling amount of bickering, quiet moments of, not so much love, as respect and tolerance. In a world of singular-minded self-involvement, the film gently asks you to contemplate a place for love in it. Heinzerling asks a lot of his audience. Always "on", Ushio is a tough read. Instead of showing his true self, he performs through much of the film. Late in the game, however, Heinzerling stuns us with archival footage which completely changes our view of this passionate yet tortured soul.

This is a hybrid film with its lovely animated sequences and beautifully composed shots. The title sequence is one unbroken shot of Ushio creating one of his works, and the use of sound makes it quite a visceral experience. This is a film that is fully alive and in tune with its subjects. Ushio is the loud "Roar" while Noriko is the quiet, stealthy sleeper. The last images of two people boxing is a great capper to what comes before.

This is a complicated film, not easy to sum up with pithy descriptions. It seems simple on the surface, yet it stuck with me long after the end credits rolled. The journey of an artist is something I hold near and dear to my heart. I can relate to Ushio's determination, while at the same time marvel at Noriko's inspiring discoveries. Is there a way for two talented artists to co-exist? After all of their decades of marriage, one would think there is, but the war just beneath the surface of this smart, fascinating, compelling film makes you wonder.
Super Reviewer
August 25, 2013
"Cutie And The Boxer" is the story of the artistic couple, Noriko and Ushio Shinohara, living in their Manhattan flat attempting to make ends meet through their art. Having moved from Japan to the United States, Ushio found slight stardom from his transition into the New York art scene. His sculptures made from recycled cardboard and his paintings made from his boxing with a canvas made him someone to watch. In 1969, Ushio met Noriko and 40 years later, they're still married. However, Noriko seems to have regrets, having dealt with Ushio's alcoholism and living in his professional shadow, being an aspiring artist herself. The documentary follows the couple in their everyday life, eating dinner with their son at their home, arguing on an elevator on the way to their studio, and painting alongside one another, supporting each others work along the way. While Ushio takes out his aggressions with boxing gloves and paint on canvas, Noriko finds solace in her passive aggressive series of paintings featuring a naked woman named Cutie and an abusive, alcoholic husband named Bullie.

My favorite part of the film is the slow motion paint-ladened boxing match between the couple at the end of the film. There's something so poetic about this sequence and really ties the film together, grounding it in the beauty and messiness of art. Acclaimed at last year's Sundance and recognized as a nominee at the 86th Academy Awards, "Cutie And The Boxer" sets out to present something unique by way of the couple's art but their personal struggles end up front and center. At a short 82 minutes long and designed as more of a character study, this couple and their squabbles are tolerable in small doses. You wonder why the couple is still together, but then you realize a universal truth about relationships and the struggles of human nature and monogamy, no matter how much you love someone, you are never going to get along with them all the time. This is summed up by an innocent conversation between the two regarding their pseudo-characters in Noriko's paintings: "Cutie hates Bullie?" "No, Cutie loves Bullie so much."
Super Reviewer
½ January 2, 2014
Great documentary. Interesting subjects and story.
August 5, 2015
It's funny that the little girl "artist" is The Great Beauty basically did what Ushio has done artistically for 50 years; the problem is one's a parody of modern art, and the other is not. The subjects just didn't interest me enough to justify this doc. Sure their marriage is "kind" of interesting, but not enough for a whole doc.
April 22, 2015
This made made nostalgic for New York City because they filmed a lot of this in some of the neighborhoods I used to hang out in. Also the 1960s & 1970s were my formative years.
March 10, 2014
Or the One Where An Old Lady Draws A Lot of Disturbing Cartoons...

Beautiful and sweet, Cutie and the Boxer is a powerful story about love even when love is difficult. It's nothing that will change your life, but if you're looking for an uplifting documentary and a story about romance in old age, this might be the one for you.
½ February 1, 2014
Zacharfy Heinzerling's intimate documentary Cutie and The Boxer chronicles the lives of two artists. It's a simple premise that will leave you floored by the time its over. One of the most tender and beautiful films about marriage ever made.
January 30, 2014
Inside the married and artistic lives of an unusual couple from the world of New York art. Sheer ordinariness and quotidien routine butt up against the improbable tale of their lives and the miracle they are still together.
½ January 27, 2014
Less an art story and more the tale of a relationship that has been frequently rocky, but ultimately worthwhile.
August 13, 2013
It was great! I haven't seen a more interesting relationship captured on film. One has to wonder how they're able to even stay alive, what with the price of rent in New York.
August 25, 2013
A documentary that transcends the art it showcases. Cutie and The Boxer gives us an intimate glimpse into the couple's relationship and how art sculpted and shaped their marriage and family dynamics.
½ August 14, 2013
Shamefully jabs at the assistant-partner-relationship trope, but compensates by keeping everything else more important. Some of the music choices don't make sense.
½ September 16, 2015
Whenever I hear that a couple has been married for a long time, say 40 or 50 or even 60 years, my mind tries to consider how such a thing is possible. What keeps people together? How do they manage a marriage that takes up 80% of their lives? How do you settle with another person indefinitely? How do you deal, year after year, with someone who drives you crazy?

"Cutie and the Boxer" is a fascinating fly-on-the-wall documentary that chooses one married couple as a means of answering those very questions. Noriko and Ushio Shinohara are a Japanese couple who have been married for 40 years. They aren't quite equals. He's an abstract artist who hasn't exactly made himself a household name. Noriko seems to function, more or less, as a dutiful housewife. She cooks, she cleans and she complains about his expensive trips to show off art that don't yield much money. He throws off her complains with "Hey, it's something."

Ushio's art - which he creates by punching a canvas with paint-dipped boxing gloves - is popular but, he admits, nothing that anyone really wants to buy (watching him create the piece is more fun than the actual result). He also sculpts large grotesque and colorful sculptures of motorcycles that look cool in a museum but aren't anything that anyone wants in their home.

Noriko exists, more or less, off in the corner of Ushio's life. She tolerates his attempts to supplement a living making art that no one will pay money for. Oh, he makes a little, but we can see that his meager income has forced them into a cramped living space in Brooklyn, with spaces filled by his art and other assorted clutter. She complains about the cost, then later he comes home and slaps money on the table with a "so there" satisfaction.

The most wonderful thing about "Cutie and the Boxer" is the way in which it simply leaves us alone to observe Noriko and Ushio. This is a movie completely devoid of talking heads. We learn about them through their experience with each other and some flashback information that shows us how they met that gives us a template of how they got where they are. They met in New York City, in 1969. Noriko was a 19 year old art student; Ushio was 40 and making avant-garde art. It was a good plan but then real life burst in the door. They got married and circumstances forced her to be housewife and supporter of a struggling artist who would spend the next 40 years in a state of professional stalemate.

Presently, we see Noriko struggling to recapture her dream, drawing a series of cartoons called "Cutie and Bullie" which depict her life with Noriko through cherubic characters that are half-autobiographical and half-pornographic. Their bond is touching, but we wonder what keeps them going. As the movie opens, they have cake together Ushio woofs it down and gets frosting on his face. Noriko tells him to wipe it off but he ignores her. "I don't listen to you," he tells her. "That is how I stay young."

It is that kind of connective resistance that keeps them together. They are contentious, combative, competitive, yet somehow strangely affectionate. There are moments that the camera captures that no screenwriter could invent. Take a moment late in the film when Ushio finishes one of his paintings. He asks Noriko what she thinks. "It's not good", she says. Then the camera lingers on Ushio's face, he's hurt and a little upset, but he never tells his wife. The scene shifts to sometime later and we can still see the pain on his face.

Their competitive nature exists all through their marriage. That's especially true at they draw to an upcoming art exhibition in a New York gallery in which they will both be showing off their work. "Art is a demon that drags you along," Ushio says. "It's something you can't stop even if you should." What he doesn't admit is that their respective artistic visions are the glue that binds their marriage together.
June 9, 2015
Really good love story - way better than I expected
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