For Reel

Cutie and the Boxer (2013)
March 6, 2014, 1:03 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Zachary Heinzerling
3.5 Stars
Cutie and the BoxerA 40-year marriage is profiled as a significant feat of resiliency in Cutie and the Boxer, a bittersweet love story haunted by aching resentments. In the 1960s, Ushio Shinohara found underground success in the Japanese art world through his unique action paintings, which involve him donning a pair of foam gloves and punching patterns across a large canvas. He met his wife Noriko (22 years his junior) in New York in the early 1970s, and together the pair of artists have struggled to get by in the city ever since. Despite Ushio’s notoriety, director Zachary Heinzerling rightly recognizes that this is Noriko’s story. She once found herself eclipsed by her husband’s success, but now has come to fully understand how the balance of power has shifted and how he has come to need her more than she needs him. It’s hard to grasp just what Heinzerling makes of the couple–just as often as he observes precious, genuinely loving moments between the two, he focuses on the child that they neglected and Noriko’s years of bitterness. The occasional displays of affection don’t seem to make up for the fact that the relationship seems fundamentally destructive, and one begins to wonder if Heinzerling grew too attached to his subjects to fully elaborate on what Ushio’s self-absorption and alcoholism has done to the family. Heinzerling isn’t interested in a value judgment, which might be the morally right move but also spins a fantasy where–as with the relationship–the real story still seems to lurk somewhere underneath the charmingly idiosyncratic surface. Nonetheless, the charisma of Ushio and Noriko is undeniable, and the film achieves some success in simply documenting their grand personalities.