Movie Review: 'Cutie and the Boxer' -- 3.5 stars
Cutie and the Boxer
Documentary by Zachary Heinzerling
Playing at Lincoln Plaza and Sunshine Cinema
Here's one of the year's great love stories, a documentary about the 40-year marriage of Japanese artist Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko, who live together in a modest DUMBO walk-up apartment.
Ushio, 80, is best known for his "boxing art," which has been displayed in many of the most important global institutions. He's singularly devoted to his expressionistic craft, which he produces by punching canvases with boxing gloves covered in paint. The movie shows him hard at work on a new show in his studio, forever the desperate artist trying to stave off poverty by enticing buyers.
But Noriko is the heart and soul of this movie, which is really about what it means to live with and love an artist. She's a proud and supportive wife who helps her husband with his work while insisting "I'm not an assistant." At the same time, she harbors artistic dreams of her own, having produced an impressive series of drawings that projects her deeply-held feelings about their life together.
Filmmaker Zachary Heinzerling is granted intimate access here; his camera practically becomes another family member. He comes away with the portrait of a marriage in full, rife with compromises, misunderstandings, angry moments and tender scenes filled with the affection amassed over four decades. It's a movie about two people who have achieved happiness together without the trappings of wealth, even if things can be difficult at times.
More than anything, "Cutie and the Boxer" is a reminder of what makes New York great: Even the most unassuming couple you encounter on the street, or inside an apartment stairwell, could have an extraordinary story to tell.