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Cutie and the Boxer

Producers Patrick Burns, Sierra Pettengill, Zachary Heinzerling, Lydia Dean Pilcher


Cutie and the Boxer chronicles the marriage of two Japanese artists, Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, who met in New York City in the late 1960’s and have been living and working there since. As a young artist in Tokyo, Ushio became famous for his raucous performance art and action painting. He set out for New York City in 1969 seeking international recognition, and after four decades of hard work, he has achieved notoriety but little commercial success. His wife Noriko, 21 years his junior, moved to New York at age 19 to study art. She soon fell in love with Ushio, moved into his Soho loft, and became pregnant. Abandoning her education, she became the caregiver for her unruly, alcoholic husband and their newborn son. The film depicts Noriko’s struggle to emerge from the shadow of her husband and blossom as an independent artist. Blending archival material and the artists’ illustrations, the film shifts between present-day vérité footage and a stylized version of the past. Through closely observed and candid scenes between the pair, we come to understand that their contrasting, often contentious personalities are the basis for a deep and challenging symbiosis that has kept them together for nearly 40 years.

Cutie and the Boxer is a Cinereach grantee.