Forty Years of Art and Marriage [Cutie and the Boxer]
Marriage and art are both long haul propositions. At age sixty, Noriko Shinohara is making art again and garnering some attention with it.
Forty years ago, she put her artist self on hold. She devoted herself to the rising artist she met when she moved to New York City from Japan. She devoted herself to his promising career and to raising the son who came along not too long after they met. She devoted decades to grounding this artist, this man.
At age 80, Ushio Shinohara still works at his chosen career. His job, his passion, his struggle continues. His promise did not yield a sturdy economic base. His alcoholism was one of many things that the Shinohara marriage had to endure.
Noriko is “Cutie,” and Ushio is “the Boxer” in the documentary “Cutie and the Boxer.” That title suggests a whimsical flavor, and some of that spice helps make this a remarkable film.
“Neo-dada” seems to be a category associated with Ushio’s art. The “dada” amounts to an irreverent “why not” and the “neo” includes contemporary constructions. His signature product is performing a painting into existence using boxing gloves and energetically attacking large canvases. Watching him do this at age 80 helps keep you interested in him through the film.
Noriko’s artistic blossoming rolls cartoon stories onto canvas that are barely veiled autobiographical commentaries. Her genie out of the bottle had been steeping for a long time. Her irreverence is less wild and more accessible than her husband’s.
Director Zachary Heinzerlin riffs on Noriko’s style, generating animations from her artwork. His visual sensibilities add much to how well he mixes a casual and intimate approach to exposing us to this curious twosome.
Whether or not these artists tickle your fancy with their art, what makes this a film you should see is the fact and reflection of this married couple. They may be artists, but what resonates especially is getting to know them as husband and wife, still tightly interwoven after 40 years of thick and thin.