Cutie And The Boxer

Cutie And The Boxer


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Noriko was 19 when she met Ushio Shinohara. She was bright, intense, dreaming of a future as an artist; he was already there, aged 41, not making much money but certainly making his name. It's 40 years later and he never did make it to the top. Now he punches his paintings with fists full of colour, imagining and imaging himself as somebody who could have been a contender. She put her life on hold to support him but now her future has arrived. Her drawings of Cutie and Bullie, plump erotic avatars of the pair, have gained a life of their own, and they're propelling her into the limelight.

Do opposites attract? Should long term partners complement each other? Nothing here is that certain. Even in old age, the relationship between the two is volatile; whilst their sparring may contribute to their curiously aggressive art, it seems one must always be sucking out life from the other. They are like two parasites living off one another, and in that sense they seem to have a closer relationship than many of their contemporaries to the raw stuff of the creative process. In person, they jibe at one another, but the laughter comes easily and the chemistry between them is every bit as intense as if they'd just met.

With such a fascinating subject, it's hard for a documentary to go wrong. Director Zachary Heinzerling contributes his own energy to proceedings with graceful camerawork and an intuitive understanding of Ushio's relationship with colour. His languorous explorations of the couple's chaotic home find the details of their sexual and intellectual intimacy in the debris of their relationship, the collected treasures and half finished, discarded fragments of ideas. At 59, Noriko remains astonishingly beautiful, her thick white braids loudly declaiming her love of fun eve when she's purporting to be the sensible one. Ushio does a good line in hard done by but Heinzerling draws out the sparkle in his eyes.

There isn't much else to tell; plot isn't the point, and an hour and a half spent watching these two eat dinner would probably be just as compelling. This is a film full of vital energy, capturing a lust for life that few experience even in their youth. It's beguiling, bewitching, and never less than entertaining. Few films about art have ever packed as much punch.

Reviewed on: 20 Feb 2014
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Two fiercely creative artists continue to spar after 40 years spent head over heels in love.
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Director: Zachary Heinzerling

Starring: Ushio Shinohara, Noriko Shinohara

Year: 2013

Runtime: 84 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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