Cutie and The Boxer is an intimate documentary chronicling a unique New York love story between two immigrant Japanese artists. Ushio and Noriko Shinohara met and married in New York City in the late 1960’s and have lived and worked there together ever since. The film is a moving portrait of a couple wrestling with the universal themes of sacrifice, disappointment, aging, and love against the background of lives dedicated to art.  Through candid scenes we come to understand that the stark differences in the Shinoharas’ art and personalities are the basis for a deep and challenging symbiosis that has kept the couple together for nearly 40 years.  The film shifts back and forth between present-day verite footage of their life in Brooklyn and a stylized version of the past, blending archival material and the artists’ own illustrations, blurring the lines between life and art.

As a young artist in Tokyo, Ushio became famous for his raucous performance art and “boxing paintings” and set out for New York City in 1969 seeking international recognition. After four decades of hard work, he has achieved notoriety but little commercial success.  Noriko came from Japan at age 19 to study art in New York and was captivated by Ushio’s passion at their first encounter in a Soho studio.  Noriko abandoned her art education to become wife to an unruly, alcoholic husband and later, mother to their only son. Forty years of marriage has left Ushio and Noriko in distinct artistic spaces.  Noriko is currently possessed by a new found energy for a series of comic-book style drawings depicting her arduous life, while Ushio fights to preserve his artistic legacy, obsessively pursuing the style he crafted 50 years ago in post-war Japan.   

At its core, Cutie and The Boxer is a documentary film that reveals painful and universal truths about the life of the artist and how the creative process intersects with reality, identity... and marriage.