True or False? 2013: Cutie and the Boxer

CUTIE_Ushio_Noriko_Shinohara_Brooklyn_home

A love story.

I walked along 9th street at the True/False Film Festival hoping to run into friends. When my previous film, ‘The Village at the End of the World’, let out too close for me to jump into a secret screening I thought of visiting, I strolled by the T/F box office to take a look at the window schedule. When I spied ‘Cutie and the Boxer’ I thought that might be a nice nightcap for the Saturday. On I went to the Missouri Theatre, where I read on the chalk board that sure enough the film was on for 8:30pm. Okay, great. Plenty of time to stand in a Q line, and maybe eat something prior to that cold wait.

Then I saw my housemate Josh who had just been rejected in the Q line from a showing of ‘The Expedition to the End of the World’. I invited him to join me for this intimate look of two Japanese artists. After purchasing some Subway, we started the line for the Q and after jumping and swaying to keep warm, received the reward for our promptness: Q numbers 1 and 2!

Cutie and the Boxer‘ is a thoroughly enjoyable and intimate look into the lives of a married Japanese couple, who separately immigrated to New York City to pursue art and decided pursuing their dreams together was better. Ushio was perhaps the most famous starving artist in New York and in his 40s, while Noriko was a 19-year old art student. They met, fell in love, and decided to marry and pursue their art alongside each other.

But that was many years ago. Today, they live and work alongside each other as well. Yet, the past is full of pain, hardship, struggles, and bitterness. Alcoholism and always living at the poverty line made for hard years, painful years.

The film’s smallness is what is most attractive, my housemate Josh said. It is small, with only a few other characters in the film, most of the dialogue is between this longtime couple, still married, still living around the poverty level, and still  doing art. The cameras focus in on Ushio and Noriko as they do their daily routine. Ushio makes some snarky remark and Noriko fires back. He makes a joke, she laughs. Etc.

I could honestly watch their daily lives through this film for many more hours! While a reality t.v. show crossed my mind, that may only cheapen this. They are not meant for serialization, but for art! They both live in this world, going from art showcase to studio to tea pots. These two are sweet, cute, endearing. But they are real.

If anything can strike one perhaps regarding their marriage it is that even with their brokenness and pain between the two, the remained faithful to each other. When one side let down the marriage, the other faithfully and perhaps gracefully held and waited. It lasts. This is even a bit surprising knowing some of the Japanese culture from which they emerged. Grace is not a word in Japan, yet Ushio and Noriko live it on the big screen.

Do we extend forgiveness to our loved ones? How do we respond to pain and hurt that is most assuredly to come when one lives so intimately with another human being?

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