Art and love, for some reason, don’t always mix.
Meet Ushio and Noriko Shinohara: They’re both artists, they’re both married, and they’re both in love with one another. However, both sides feel different about all three of these aspects of their lives. Although, there is one common conclusion they can come together on: They’re struggling and living in poverty. And yes, it does suck. However, they both try to get through this as best as they can by creating art, holding shows, trying to get any bidder who’d be willing to throw away their money on one of Ushio’s infamous “boxing portraits” and eventually pay their rent, that’s already long over-do. It’s a hard life that these two have, but they live it together and through what we see of Noriko’s own art that she’s trying to get noticed, is that it’s always been an uphill-battle with Ushio. There are some very dark aspects surrounding Ushio’s past-life that we find out about, through himself, as well as Noriko, and we also begin to realize what sort of effect those dark problems have had on their child, Alex.
It should be of no surprise to anyone that, even in the 21st Century, making an honest living as an artist is a lot harder than it looks. Not only do you have to find a way to bring something new to the table that hasn’t already been done before, but you have to get the right exposure from all sorts of the right people. Thanks to the internet that we are so blessed with to have nowadays, it’s a lot easier for artists to get recognition and money for what it is that they create, but it’s still hard and it’s only going to get harder. We even see a scene early on in which both Ushio and Noriko try their damn near hardest to “sell” a potential buyer on one of their most unique paintings, yet, come-up short, all because it doesn’t hold any sort of “cultural significance”. Just goes to show you that being an artist can blow sometimes, but when you’re trying to get money for it, it’s probably easier to not even bother.
However, one of the best aspects behind this documentary isn’t that it’s trying to make some long-lasting statement about the modern-state of art or how artists from all-over-the-world should be noticed, praised and given money; it’s more of a long-lasting statement about the most universal aspects a person can have in life: Love. And what comes with every love, is a story about the love itself – how it began, how it felt, how it carried-on throughout the thick and thin and, in some cases, how it still stands to this day. That’s why when you see and hear a love story like the one of Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, you can’t help but get that warm-feeling in the pit of your stomach, but realize that love itself is one of the most powerful feelings one can have in their life and how, no matter what type of hoops and loops that said love may go through, the feeling never goes away.
Yes, I know, I know, I know! This is all beginning to sound quite like my Her review, but whereas that was a fictional movie about a man and his operating system falling in love and sharing life with one another, this one’s a true story about two aging-artists that still seem to love one another, but both have very, VERY different ideas about that love, and it’s all the better because of that. But for instance, whereas Ushio believes that his love with Noriko is one built up on a friendship and understanding that will never go away; Noriko is sort of the opposite. Norkio feels like she can be trapped by how much Ushio has caused strife in her life and holds plenty of resentment towards him for that. Sure, she loves him with all her heart, but there are some parts of that heart that makes her wish that she may have had taken a few different paths along the way.
Speaking of that path, we actually do get to see plenty of it in her art, which not only shows us the early part of her life where she met Ushio, fell in love with him, had his baby, got married to him and found herself in absolute debt most of the time, but also her current, day-to-day feelings about how she wants to make a name for herself, and not simply known as “Ushio Shinohara’s wife”. Though the movie could have easily painted her as something of a villainous figure that has it out for her dear, old hubby, day in and day out, it does exactly the opposite. In fact, we probably sympathize with her, more than we do with Ushio, but we also still see the traits that make them who they are when they’re alone, as well as when they’re with one another. We also get to see a lot of what Noriko has been through in her life with Ushio and how, no matter how many times her husband may think differently, there will still continue to be problems, just as much as there had been in the past. This could have easily made this a very sad documentary that painted this couple’s lives together as a uneventful, poverty-stricken existence, but doesn’t do so and shows that their love for one another, as well as the art that they create, does give them plenty of happiness to get through the day.
And in some cases, may even help them pay the rent.
That’s pretty much all that this documentary really talks about, although I must say, it does it quite well. We see these two as lovers and, on occasion, as artists. In fact, I wished that they would have shed more insight into the art that these two create, like for instance, how and why Ushio himself came-up with the idea of creating art by punching a blank-canvas with painted boxing-gloves. It seemed like an interesting form in which somebody would actually create “art”, but it’s never explained; rather, we see more about how much of a drunk he was, causing emotional and financial problems for both he and Noriko. Which is fine considering that it’s the main arch of the story, I just wish there had been a few more bits of insight into how this art makes Ushio who is today, or who he was back in the days when he was odd and mysterious, but also still well-known.
Maybe these are small gripes with the film because at the end of the day, this documentary really is the story behind Ushio and Noriko Shinohara: Their love, their lives and their passions. While you do get an idea that there was plenty of footage left on the cutting-room floor, what we still get to see here is a couple that made it through hell, came back, went through some more hell, and came back once again, only to get a smaller-version of that place they were previously at. Yes, it all sounds so sad, mopey and a tad bit depressing, but they have love and adoration for one another, and if anything, that’s what keeps them going the most in life.
Consensus: Without trying too hard to try and make any huge statement about the current-state of the art world, Cutie and the Boxer keeps it straight and narrow to the story of both Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, two people who clearly love one another, but also have a checkered-past, that can bring out plenty of sadness, as well as happiness. Just like love itself, folks.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!