Cutie and the Boxer

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The remarkable documentary Cutie and the Boxer is an indelible portrait of art, companionship, and the 40-year love story between Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, two Japanese artists who meet and marry in New York in the early 1970s. Surviving decades of hardship, resentment, financial anxiety, thwarted aspirations, and Ushio’s chronic alcoholism, they are a study in artistic symbiosis. Once a rising (and notoriously hard-living) star in the ’70’s New York art scene, 80-year-old “boxing” painter Ushio Shinohara is prepping for his latest show, hoping to reinvigorate his career. His wife and de facto assistant, Noriko, seeks to emerge from her husband’s shadow and gain her own recognition through her “Cutie” illustrations, which depict their chaotic 40-year marriage via their cartoon alter egos, Cutie and Bullie. Moving fluidly between past and present, incorporating animation and archival footage, Cutie and the Boxer brilliantly captures two lives united by a dedication to art-making, in the process creating a touching meditation on the eternal themes of love and sacrifice. (Dir. by Zachary Heinzerling, 2013, 82 mins., Rated R, RADiUS-TWC) Digital