Astrology: Film: ‘Cutie and the Boxer’ (2013)



The couple with the ear-popping titular nicknames in Zachary Heinzerling’s documentary Cutie and the Boxer are Noriko and Ushio Shinohara, a Japanese wife and husband who’ve stayed married to each other for 40 years. It’s a triumph of duration that may be at least partially attributed to the Neptunian self-sacrifice of one of the partners.

Noriko, softly spoken with gray hair that glistens in the light, is more than 20 years younger than Ushio, who’s now 80. Both artists, they met in New York City decades ago. Noriko was 19 and Ushio had already secured a reputation based on his cardboard sculptures and style of painting, which involved boxing with paint-soaked gloves across a large canvas.

No less talented as an illustrator, Noriko nevertheless allowed, with regret, her artistic aspirations to fade after she had a child. To the wiry and impressively vital Ushio, Noriko is merely his assistant. “The average one has to support the genius,” he says. And Noriko admits to having felt inferior to her husband and being nothing more than his “follower.”

As fate would have it, Noriko decides she’s going to blossom as an artist – now! – whether Ushio approves or not. Her illustrated output is in the form of a young girl named “Cutie” who, says Noriko in her still halting English, “is good at taming bullies but it’s not so easy to tame him” – that would be Ushio – “in real life.”

The film lays bare the couple’s bickering, eating together, meeting with someone from the Guggenheim museum to discuss a possible purchase of one of Ushio’s paintings, and visits from their troubled adult son, who’s also an artist.

But the big attraction is watching a veteran couple advance and recede in each other’s orbit with art (Neptune) at the center. “We’re two flowers in the same pot,” she says. “When everything goes well, it’s two flowers. It’s either heaven or hell.” The takeaway in Cutie and the Boxer is the positive end of the spectrum. In Shinohara language: “Love is a ROAR!”

Astrology Film Rating: ♆ (Neptune)

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