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Oscar-nominated documentary Cutie and the Boxer explores the chaotic yet endearing and enduring 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko.
Directed by Zachary Heinzerling, the film shows how the Japanese couple have sacrificed so much (they struggle to make rent) in order to be artists in New York.
The 82-year-old Ushio — who makes artwork by punching large canvases with paint-laced boxing gloves and builds giant sculptures of motorcycles — is the more well-known artist of the pair, having made a name for himself in Japan and exhibited in galleries throughout the world, such as the Guggenheim Museum SoHo, the Japan Society in New York and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.
But Cutie and the Boxer has shifted the spotlight.
Noriko, 62, is also an artist who creates stunning paintings based on a story about a woman named Cutie and her volatile relationship with a man named Bully. After meeting Ushio, Noriko put her art on hold to allow his to flourish and to raise their son. “We are like two flowers in one pot,” she says in the film. “It’s difficult. Sometimes we don’t get enough nutrients for both of us. But when everything goes well, we become two beautiful flowers.”
The documentary, which is now available on Netflix, has had a strong affect on the lives of this colorful couple. Noriko finds herself the center of attention, especially with New York locals.
“Sometimes I am stopped on the street four or fives times a day,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter, adding that many people also ask to take a picture with her.
She also says she can’t go to one coffee shop in her neighborhood anymore because it’s located by a lot film companies’ offices and she was being recognized too much.
“I still say it’s nice,” she says of her newfound fame.
Noriko, who has to pause the interview with THR at one point to answer a phone call from a Japanese newspaper looking to talk to her, says she has fielded lots of interviews, especially since the film’s nomination.
The couple will fly out to Los Angeles Friday to attend the Academy Awards on Sunday. A Japanese news crew will meet them in Los Angeles to film their every move as their prepare for the Hollywood gala.
At first, she wanted to wear a traditional kimono to the event, but has instead been lent a Issey Miyake dress, inspired by the design of kimonos.
“I am excited by the people’s excitement,” she says about the Oscars. “People are more excited than me. I’m too busy preparing for my exhibition.”
After the Oscars, Noriko and Ushiro will head to to Tokyo for an exhibition, which they hope will help their financial situation. Noriko says the documentary has helped them financially, at least for not falling behind on rent.
“Now I can pay rent, but it’s still very expensive,” she says. “I don’t know if I can pay in April or May. But more people are coming after the Oscars, so I hope the results will be good.”
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