Artois the Goat is an independent romantic comedy about one man's dream of being a goat cheese maker. These days, the independent film industry's fascination with quirk can take what might've once sounded like sure-fire oddball bet and turn it into a cynical gamble. Yet, right from the beginning, it's clear that writer/directors Kyle and Cliff Bogart have some love for cheese itself. Not, perhaps, a particularly important distinction for the film as executed, but it's relieving to know right away that these guys chose to write about cheese because they like cheese, not because cheese is a weird thing for a man to obsess over.
The man in Artois the Goat is Virgil (Mark Scheibmeir), who toils in the unforgiving position of assistant in an artificial taste-testing lab. If, by chance, one of the many flavors Virgil helps check turns into a product, Virgil gets a cut of the profits, but by the time the product is on shelves, no matter how accurate or enticing the flavor appeared in the lab, the results are invariably disgusting (not to mention "jazzed up" with ample additions of the letter "z"). He is deeply in love with his girlfriend Angie (Sydney Andrews), but they face a rocky future while Angie moves to Detroit for the sake of her job. The plan is for Virgil to look for taste-testing opportunities in the city, but when his friend Yens (Stephen Taylor Fry) gives him a sliver of illegally imported goat cheese, Virgil is off on a single-minded mission to create something genuine rather than double-check others' recreations.
The biggest issue with Artois is pacing. While each scene in the movie makes enough sense in and of itself, the film doesn't flow from scene to scene. Yens, for instance, drops in the movie almost out of nowhere, and Virgil's slow road between tasting Yens' sample and figuring out how he wants to apply that to his own life is uselessly long and convoluted. The film only runs 109 minutes, but all in all, Artois feels like it'd benefit from a 90 or even 80-minute runtime, with more of an eye on how the film functions as an arc rather than the craft of each individual beat.
Thankfully, the film packs a charming atmosphere, fueled both by a wonderfully Amelie-esque score by Brian Satterwhite and great chemistry between Scheibmeir and Andrews. The Bogarts make the wise decision of giving the couple some purely romantic scenes right at the beginning, which are powerful and convincing enough to propel the whole movie. It's rare to have a movie where any theoretical "happily ever after" is supported by what the film shows, which inevitably involves conflict, but even during the couple's dark moments, the subsequent make-up sessions feel as fully realized as their introductory scenes. Other, supporting cast members like Michael Sullivan as two of Virgil's superiors, and Dan Braverman as a hermit nursing a broken dream of breeding basset hounds ("there is something about pushing a rock uphill for thirty years that will take the romance out of what is essentially a floppy-eared dog!") are allowed to get goofy on the sidelines.
Sometimes, it's hard to figure out what's being recommended: the film itself, or the effort it took to create it. There are better movies than Artois the Goat, and sometimes, recommending an independent film is more about recognizing the ingenuity that went into the good parts of a movie rather than the film as a whole. Artois the Goat, however, will appeal greatly to a specific audience of dreamers, those who dream of creating something and making a name for themselves. It's a rocky road from start to finish, and it takes longer than it should, but that's art for you, goat cheese or otherwise.
Indiepix has created some nice-looking artwork for Artois, although the selection of images, in my mind, make the film seem less contemporary and perhaps a bit more arty or niche than it is.
The Video and Audio
Artois the Goat is granted a mostly acceptable 1.78:1 widescreen image that looks good from a distance but reveals a few flaws upon slightly closer inspection, like moire effects on shirts, occasional interlacing, slightly fuzzy details, and maybe a touch of edge enhancement. Given that this is a low-budget production, it's easy to forgive the issues. Colors are bright and detail is strong, which should please most viewers. Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is jaunty and light on its feet, if a touch quiet and limited in its dynamic range. No subtitles or captions are provided.
None, other than the film's original theatrical trailer.
If you've got a dream, throw a little caution to the wind. The overall DVD doesn't have enough to it for me to suggest a purchase, but a rental should suit most viewers just fine.
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