"Cutie and the Boxer": How Two Artists Make it Work

Cutie and the Boxer Set primarily in the mildly overstuffed squalor of their tiny New York apartment, Zachary Heinzerling's Cutie and the Boxer documents the lives of Japanese-born artist Noriko Shinohara and her husband, Ushio, whose career has always dominated Noriko's life. Ushio is the more famous of the two, especially for his paintings (achieved with a large canvas, boxing gloves, and a lot of paint) and his grotesque found-cardboard sculptures, while Noriko's work is autobiographical comics about their lives — work she's long neglected due to her perceived obligations to the needy, destitute, and frequently drunk Ushio, as well as her real obligations to their American-born son, Alex. (Archival footage shows the poor kid growing up in an incredibly inappropriate, booze-drenched environment.) Leading up to a joint gallery show, Cutie and the Boxer is an inspiring story of a woman finally learning that loving someone else (and they do love each other) doesn't mean ignoring her own needs. Noriko's character is "Cutie" in her comics, and Ushio is "Bullie," and he's never referred to as a boxer at any point, but calling the picture Cutie and the Bullie would invoke too much cultural baggage in America. And it's not that Ushio hasn't bullied Noriko — but it was in the way that's long been sanctioned by marriage.

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