Cutie and the Boxer: a portrait of marriage

Christian Butler

Topics Culture

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The trailer for Cutie and the Boxer describes the film as a ‘painting documentary’, but this is a red herring.

Granted, the film’s subjects are neo-Dadaist artist Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko, who is also a painter, and there are a number of sequences showing the artists at work. However, the greatest strength of this charming documentary is not in any attempt to dissect the couple’s art, but the portrait it offers of their 40 years of marriage.

With the help of archive footage and animated flashbacks, we are told how Noriko sacrificed everything at the age of 19 to live a life of poverty with the renowned artist and alcoholic, some 20 years her elder. Now at the age of 58, Noriko is putting on her first exhibition, which transfers all of her pent-up anger towards Ushio into the adventures of a cartoonish alter ego named Cutie.

Through Zachery Heinzerling’s gorgeous direction, the film explores the complexity of a ‘successful’, if sometimes fraught, marriage. Admittedly this sounds as exciting as watching paint dry, but whether we’re seeing Noriko assist Ushio with punching a canvas, or discussing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull over dinner, this film is never dull.

At turns both hilarious and devastating, Cutie and the Boxer is a superb, humane film.

Christian Butler is a writer and musician based in London.

Cutie and the Boxer will be released in UK cinemas on the 1 November. Watch the trailer here:


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