Cutie and The Boxer

Well it's been a long while since I've seen a film before it hits the theaters...but I recently was able to catch the amazing documentary that has been making the rounds- most notable at my favorite film fest in the world True/False down in Columbia, MO and also just last week over at the Tribeca Film Festival- and that film is none other than Cutie and the Boxer. And it is one of the best films I have seen in years!

Cutie and the Boxer peers into the creative life of Ushio & Noriko Shinohara, a Japanese couple who have lived in New York for decades, building their artistic visions, lifestyle and love in a way that is to be admired, observed, and pondered. Cutie is the R. Crumb like scroll style narrative comic book creation of Noriko - her braided ink drawn alter ego portraying life in the shadow of a virulent man. The Boxer is Ushio, known throughout the NY 70s pop art scene for his found object sculptures, action painting- literally boxing paint onto canvases-, and general overwhelming artistic spirit/ego. They live in their own dilapidated studios, they move in & out of sparkling galleries, they support, push and struggle to maintain a lifestyle that audiences are rarely allowed to see....and the filmmaking that captures their sweeping togetherness is the perfect compliment to this story.

The director of this film won some kind of first time director award at Sundance this year and he definitely deserved it! His crafting of this film is near perfection with a personal yet distanced eye feeling around the emotions and environment he is documenting with a touch of his own creative intensity; animation sequences of Cutie's drawings provide backstory, archival & vhs footage of Ushio as a younger artist, distanced sequences of creative production rarely captured on film (think Pollock footage but with a much more humanistic eye)...event the carefully chosen music (Yasuaki Shimizu & Saxophonettes) held together the feel of the film in such a beautiful fact that is the way I would describe Zachary Heinzerling's filmmaking as a whole: sensory. A new cinematic voice that seamlessly blends the eccentricities and wonder of what it means to live a modern artistic lifestyle both as subjects and as a documentary filmmaker- both as artists.

I've been finding it very difficult to articulate my review of this movie...thanks to it hitting a little too close to home. I didn't make an official announcement on this here blog that I have parted ways with my collaborator....One can become so lost in their own head, in their own ideas, that the needs, ideas and heads of others are clouded with the visionary creativity of another- a problem that is so hard to reconcile, and one that, seeing the relationship of Ushio & Noriko, makes me yearn to kidnap her! How many apologies can we make for the gifted & talented minds that cause so much destruction in the wake of their enormous, brooding, towering ideas...? To see Cutie, a film executed with such poise and care, is to witness a type of living that is both immensely passionate and also immensely destructive- two things that are often needed to instigate and balloon shadows of ideas into realities....but sometimes the realities behind an artistic vision are can be a little trying.... Cutie and the Boxer is a must see film about a not often described unreal life of heartache, love and imaginative invention a film that I know all too well...



Donna K. lives in the Midwest and on the internet. Mostly she writes about her interest in the offline world.