MRR Review: "Cutie and the Boxer"

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This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband's assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own.
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MRR Review: "Cutie and the Boxer"

Rating: R (for nude art images)
Length: 82 minutes
Release Date: Nov. 1, 2013
Directed by: Zachary Heinzerling
Genre: Documentary

"Cutie and the Boxer" is a quirky documentary by director Zachary Heinzerling. This documentary focuses on the wild and unpredictable forty-year-long marriage between Ushio Shinohara and Noriko, who serves as his wife and assistant. Ushio Shinohara is a highly skilled boxing painter, and his wife is an artist herself who is trying to find her own identity instead of just being known as her husband's assistant. This candid documentary focuses on the chaotic love story shared by Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, making bold statements about age, dreams, and the sacrifices you have to make when you love someone who is pursuing his or her dreams.

When Ushio Shinohara first met his wife, he was already a famous artist who had made a massive impact in Japan and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Andy Warhol and other world-famous painters. Ushio Shinohara became famous for his boxing paintings and the unusual way in which he created them. Ushio Shinohara would dress himself like a boxer all the way down to his boxing gloves. He attached large sponges dipped in paint to his gloves and used them to color his canvas as he punched it enthusiastically and moved from one side of the canvas to the other. His strange paintings began making waves all throughout Japan due in part to his bizarre methods of creating them. Ushio Shinohara is also known for his sculptures depicting dinosaurs and motorcycles. These exhibits often have strange names based on the sounds they would make if they were living things and working machines. Through Ushio Shinohara's abstract and unorthodox art, he became known for his energetic, strong personality and love of spontaneity and drama.

His magnetic personality won the love of his wife, Noriko, who was over twenty years younger than Ushio when they first met almost four decades ago. Noriko was an eager and promising artist, but her love for her new husband drove her to give up her dreams of being an artist to become a mother instead. After more than thirty years of marriage and raising their child well into adulthood, Noriko is ready to become the artist she was born to be while her husband's own career is gaining momentum again. The massive career sacrifices Noriko had to make in order to become a wife and mother set a precedent in the couple's relationship, and Ushio is ready to support her dreams at all cost in spite of their almost constant arguing and very different ideas.

"Cutie and the Boxer" follows the lives of Ushio and Noriko Shinohara over a period of two years. The film was popularized by the Sundance Film Festival in 2013, where it received rave reviews. "Cutie and the Boxer" was created by Zachary Heinzerling, who wanted to tell the romantic story of this unique couple. Even though the lead fantastic lives, they are a regular married couple at heart, and the film shows that they love each other deeply no matter what. Ushio Shinohara seems like a jealous and prideful man at first, while Noriko seems to be the long-suffering and hard-working wife who has to put up with his difficult personality. However, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that Ushio Shinohara loves his wife just as much as she loves him. Her vibrant, honest personality meshes well with his bold, sometimes aggressive demeanor.

"Cutie and the Boxer" features multiple animated scenes depicting the couple's interactions. These animations are inspired by Noriko's popular comic "Cutie and the Bullie," her artistic interpretation of her relationship with Ushio. The caricatured animation helps audiences see the couple for who they truly are: two artists who have the same dream and different ways of achieving their goals. Even though Ushio Shinohara is already a famous painter, the documentary focuses on Noriko's accomplishments and dreams to give her a well-deserved turn in the spotlight.

"Cutie and the Boxer" makes bold statements about love, dreams, and age. Even though Noriko is much older than most up-and-coming artists, she has all the drive and desire to succeed that people need to achieve their dreams. Thanks to the success of "Cutie and the Boxer," Noriko might be even closer to realizing her goals and beginning an artistic career just as successful as the one led by her husband. Zachary Heinzerling's portrayal of Noriko has already caused audiences everywhere to fall in love with her thanks to her open, honest personality and her incredible patience with her husband's difficult attitude.

Stars: 3 out of 5