This is a wonderful movie. Cutie and the Boxer premiered at Sundance back in January, where it immediately grabbed a spot in the top tier of the festival programming. The story of painter/sculptor Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko Shinohara, also an artist, the documentary tackles the difficult complexities of navigating many years of marriage. The individual artistic ambitions of each half of the couple — which aren’t incompatible, but which are unbalanced thanks to Ushio’s self-definition as the breadwinner — add an extra layer of complication to a shared life that is already rife with struggle.

If that sounds dry, just check out the trailer below. Director Zachary Heinzerling was given intimate access to the Shinoharas, and they prove to be feisty and tender subjects. The film is built of beautiful images that never feel polished to dishonesty, and backed by a score that mirrors the alternately soft and prickly facets of each person.

Noriko’s work is brought to life with endearing animation, and she ultimately becomes the storyteller, casting her relationship with Ushio — nicknamed “Bullie” — as a saga that casts their personal and professional journey as a fairy tale. There are glimmers of all those elements in the new trailer, embedded after the break. Read More »

First-time feature documentary director Zachary Heinzerling makes a quietly assured debut with the tender and perceptive Cutie and the Boxer. In documenting the 40-year marriage between Japanese “action painter” Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko Shinohara, the film paints a keen vision of the ways in which the halves of a life-long couple learns to life with, and often in spite of one another. Read More »