Cutie And The Boxer

2013

Cutie And The Boxer

Critics Consensus

A beautifully-made documentary that explores the challenges and richness of both marriage and art through the lens of a fascinating and complex couple.

95%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 74

75%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,337
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Movie Info

Once a rising star in the '70's New York art scene, 80-year-old "boxing" painter Ushio Shinohara is prepping for his latest show, hoping to reinvigorate his career. His wife and de facto assistant, Noriko, seeks her own recognition through her "Cutie" illustrations, which depict their chaotic 40-year marriage. CUTIE AND THE BOXER captures two lives united by a dedication to art-making for a touching meditation on the eternal themes of love and sacrifice. (c) Radius-TWC

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Critic Reviews for Cutie And The Boxer

All Critics (74) | Top Critics (29)

  • The couple are thriving, but, given what we learn about Alex, the up-beat ending jars.

    Nov 1, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • This doc about a bickering husband-and-wife artist team feels like its drama has been forced by the filmmakers.

    Oct 31, 2013 | Rating: 2/5
  • Bohemianism and marriage are both for life in this alternately rueful and whimsical documentary about expat Japanese artist couple Ushio and Noriko Shinohara.

    Oct 31, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Phil Hoad

    Guardian
    Top Critic
  • It's a touching film and a fascinating glimpse into one of those couples you can't quite believe are still together.

    Oct 29, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Cath Clarke

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • A painful, powerful portrait of the struggle and sacrifice required to create, and the cost that it can demand.

    Oct 3, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • The story of an extraordinary marriage between two people bound together by their artistic impulse.

    Sep 26, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4

Audience Reviews for Cutie And The Boxer

  • Nov 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.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer
  • Feb 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!
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Feb 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.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 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.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer

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