“Art is a demon that drags you along.”
Directed by: Zachary Heinzerling
Starring: Ushio Shinohara, Noriko Shinohara, Ethan Cohen
Ushio Shinohara’s art style packs a punch. One of his most iconic works is an explosively marked canvas, created by punching the blank space with a pair of boxing gloves dipped in paint. His sculptures of large motorcycles and fighting creatures also share an aggressive and kinetic quality that oozes with thick color and confronts the viewer with distorted shapes made from discarded cardboard boxes. Ushio’s wife, Noriko Shinohara, on the other hand, illustrates a series of drawings centered on a female character, Cutie, and her husband, Bullie. The drawings blend a child-like innocence with the tragic and heartbreaking realities of love and life, and Noriko attends to her work with a silent and serene demeanor, dipping into the pained memories of her relationship with Ushio and art. The two differing art styles speak volumes about each artist’s personality and their history as a married couple. It is first-time director Zachary Heinzeling’s cinematic style, however, that tells their story with heartbreaking beauty and poignancy.
Cutie and the Boxer is a documentary that follows the lives of the married artists – Ushio and Noriko Sinohara. The Shinoharas offer visually eye-popping settings for Heinzerling’s film as their art studio and apartment in Dumbo are as cluttered and messy as their complex relationship. Heinzerling, however, navigates the lack of order in the lives of these two struggling artists by unfolding their history with interwoven slices of Noriko’s animated illustrations, old video footage, present-day conversations and interviews that peel back the folds of canvas and paint that consume their passions and interests. What Heinzeling sheds light on through the story of the Shinoharas is profound. Without ever forcing a moment or glorifying the life of an artist, Heinzerling allows us to observe the ups and downs, the bold colors, the rough edges, and the charming sensibilities of the Shinoharas, and make our own meaning. From paint to sculptures, photography to animation and cinema, Heinzeling sees the art of marriage, the art of life, and the art of love, in Cutie and the Boxer.