Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Rated R for nude art images
Now on Netflix:
“Love is a roarrrr!!” This is the theme which echoes throughout Oscar nominee for best documentary, “Cutie and the Boxer”; a movie that undoubtedly nobody has heard of.
More about Cutie than the Boxer: Starting off as an attempt to shine light on artist Ushio Shinorhara, best known for his avant-garde pieces and action paintings from the late 60’s to today, where he physically uses everything from his fists to his forehead as a paintbrush, director Zachary Heinzerling lays out the introspective story of this somewhat eccentrically generic artist as he sets up a gallery exhibition. But in an odd twist of fate, Heinzerling inadvertently captures a far more interesting subplot surrounding Shinohara’s much younger wife, Noriko, giving audiences a look at the portrait of a strained marriage, filled with alcoholism and regret, where Noriko (a very talented artist herself) lives in her husband’s shadow, as she likens her marriage to “two flowers growing in the same pot.”
Opening with the striking image of an 80 year old Asian man putting on comically large boxing gloves, dipping them into black paint and proceeding to aggressively pummel a white canvas, which stands twice his size, it would be easy to say this is a doc which contains some imagery that commands attention. But more so, “Cutie and the Boxer” contains more intriguing nuances within its character analysis. Especially during the latter portions, where Heinzerling focuses more on Noriko and her hand drawn animations; animations which star a quite liberated female character, who goes by the name “Cutie”. During this section of the film “Cutie and the Boxer” takes its purest and most developed form, as these character’s true motivations become transparent.
Heinzerling uses the most creative means possible to bring different layers of this story to life and the cinematography is pretty great (the final shot was subtly the most artistic image in the entire film). But although the meat of this worked for me, I never felt as engaged with the subjects or subject matter as I believe Heinzerling would have liked me to.
Final Thought: “Cutie and the Boxer” is honestly a movie that, from the poster alone, I was dreading to have to sit down and watch. Now, was I blown away after I finished this? No. But if you are on Netflix and interested in watching a film regarding a case of female liberation masquerading as an art documentary, then “Cutie and the Boxer” is an interesting enough watch.
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