Zachary Heinzerling’s debut documentary about Japanese artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara is a film that astonishes viewers not because Ushio and Noriko are wonderful artists—and they are—so much as because they’ve managed to stay married to one another. Forty years ago, a beautiful young woman came to America to study art and met Ushio, a hell-raising iconoclast who gained a bit of fame as a performance artist. Noriko fell in love.
Life with Ushio isn’t easy for Noriko—he drinks, doesn’t sell much artwork—but it is stimulating. She suffers, citing her husband (while sitting next to him!) as the source of her hardship. He suffers too, confessing that art is a demon that has drug him along. Cutie and the Boxer catches them at the moment Noriko gains recognition for artwork that chronicles her marriage, a development which appears to add daggers to an already wounded relationship. But the marriage endures. The dedication this couple has toward their art and toward each other can stem only from either fierce, stubborn loyalty or love of the brightest kind—probably both.