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Artois the Goat Review

Self-indulgence is fine in moderation. After all, it’s a fine line, especially in film, between personal endeavor and audience satisfaction. Zack Snyder’s slavish commitment to recreating Alan Moore’s landmark Watchmen on the silver screen robbed the film of any personality and delivered a production held together by terrific set design. Nowhere near the bore that Watchmen was, Artois the Goat nevertheless dips into the pool of over-indulgence a few times throughout its much-too-long runtime of 2 hours. The Bogart brothers, who wrote and directed this pronouncedly quick-witted film, arm it with a curious premise: Virgil (Mark Scheibmeir, looking every bit like a younger Peter Serafinowicz), a lab technician whose flavor additive testing job is a mind-numbing daily grind, turns his life upside down in order to make the perfect cheese. There’s also the matter of a new job in Detroit, a suffering long-distance relationship with his beloved Angie (Sydney Andrews), and of course, the titular goat, Artois.

The brothers must have been familiar with the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, Amelie), since Artois plays out much like a Jeunet film with a considerably lower budget. Cartoonish posturing and sensationalist acting trade places with domestic disputes and a story that, at heart, is about letting go of what you need to do in order to do something you want. The cinematography, by David Blue Garcia, is one of the strongest points of the film – capable of translating the colorful, often highly surrealistic vision the brothers hope to get across.

Virgil’s quest to come an experienced cheese maker is delivered in nuanced detail, as the cheese making process is not trivialized but shown with deft pace and good comic timing. It is a process all about timing and precision and you can definitely feel the care both the filmmakers and the characters put into it. Artois works best during these all-too-short sequences, where it achieves a fresh appeal from showing something with which most people are unfamiliar. It keeps the film from settling down to a story about a 30-something who wants out of the rat race and makes it something a little more personable.

Scheibmeir as Virgil is likable and surprisingly grounded, even in the more heightened moments that call on him to yelp or roar. His commitment to the role, as well as the rest of the cast’s, helps elevate Artois even as it becomes notably bogged down over the lengthy running time. This film, for all its artistic intention, could have benefited from a substantial trimming. The Bogart brothers are talented directors and they appear well capable of using broad strokes to suggest larger ideas, such as the relationship between Virgil and Angie, which is well established early on. The problem is that the facts of their romantic conflict are repeated again and again, to the point where you begin to question your own investment in the film.

Luckily, the last forty-five minutes absolutely help to kick the film up a notch, as Virgil draws closer to his goal and the pacing picks up significantly. After much back-and-forth on whether Virgil will make the “cheese of destiny” as the summary of the DVD case puts it, the final stretch is exciting and moving, with all the small bit part actors putting in their film-best work and the resolution, while winded by the addition of a twist that once again rips the cheese out of Virgil’s hands, nicely wraps up the film. In the end, Artois feels like a bigger film than it actually is, a simple story sometimes helped, other times harangued, by an aggressively surreal visual style and an overlong runtime. It is, in its own way, a minor epic and its last hour definitely cements a number of images in your mind.

DVD Bonus Features

None unfortunately, with the exception of the theatrical trailer for the film and a collection of previews for other IndiePix releases.

 

"Artois the Goat" is on sale July 13, 2010 and is not rated. Comedy, Indie, Romance. Directed by Cliff Bogart, Kyle Bogart. Written by Cliff Bogart, Kyle Bogart. Starring Mark Scheibmeir, Stephen Taylor Fry, Sydney Andrews.

Aug
10
2010
Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.

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