The trailer for Cutie and the Boxer describes the film as a ‘painting documentary’, but this is a red herring.
Granted, the film’s subjects are neo-Dadaist artist Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko, who is also a painter, and there are a number of sequences showing the artists at work. However, the greatest strength of this charming documentary is not in any attempt to dissect the couple’s art, but the portrait it offers of their 40 years of marriage.
With the help of archive footage and animated flashbacks, we are told how Noriko sacrificed everything at the age of 19 to live a life of poverty with the renowned artist and alcoholic, some 20 years her elder. Now at the age of 58, Noriko is putting on her first exhibition, which transfers all of her pent-up anger towards Ushio into the adventures of a cartoonish alter ego named Cutie.