‘Artois the Goat’: When the Goat Talks, Listen

At its center, Artois the Goat is a love story. Actually, it’s several love stories. It’s an ode to independent film as well as an acclamation of the city of Austin and its artistic communities. It’s a paean to the quirky comedies of the past. It’s a boy meets girl story, but it’s also a boy meets goat story.

In fact, there are so many love stories occurring in this film, that you can’t restrict it to a particular genre or even narrow it down by an intended audience. It has a young couple in a relationship, so it’s for the romantics among us, but it also has a monumental quest, so it’s for the adventurers at heart. Except that the quest is for cheese, so it is for the the foodies among us. Some of that cheese is illegal, so it’s for the foodies and the rebels; some of that illegal cheese is divinely hallucinogenic, so the film might be for the rebel foodies who like to imagine finding God in their chèvre frais. As you can see, Artois the Goat probably has a little something to please every palate.

The story starts simply enough. Virgil (Mark Scheibmeir) loves Angie and Angie (Sydney Andrews) loves Virgil, but Angie also loves her job and Virgil also loves food—particularly the imported cheeses procured by his paranoid friend, Yens (Stephen Taylor Fry). Oh, and Virgil hates his job making artificial flavorings. Angie isn’t so concerned with this, and when she takes a job in Detroit, she expects, as does Virgil, that he’ll take the first available transfer opportunity to join her.

However, Virgil is destined for something more savory. Enter Artois. Well, Artois doesn’t actually enter, so much as she appears. She makes a couple of initially insubstantial appearances, once in the aforementioned fantasy du fromage. Fortunately, Artois is more than a cheese-induced delusion. She represents passion, she stands for dreams, she symbolizes perseverance, and, after Virgil rescues her from certain death—twice—she will produce the chèvre of destiny! This chosen cheese, of course, will win back the girl. The girl who, naturally, took off upon being told that her boyfriend had picked dairy products over Detroit—and, therefore, over her—on advice from a dream goat.

Still, if it were all that straightforward, this film wouldn’t be half the immense pleasure it is. Filmmakers Cliff and Kyle Bogart stuff the screen with all sorts of homages and clever visual callbacks, along with hilarious sight gags and simply gorgeous shots of the Texas Hill Country (a lot of the outdoor scenes take place on Luecke Ranch). They enlisted Austin’s favorite Parisian transplant Oliver Giraud (8 ½ Souvenirs, Paris 49) to provide many of the songs on the soundtrack and local Austin composer Brian Satterwhite to fill the score with music that might sound equally as appropriate lilting out of a little pavement café, as it would accompanying a classic french farce.

That’s almost what Artois the Goat is, at times, and the Bogarts couldn’t wish for a better cast to handle the comedy. Scheibmeir is endearingly spot on. Whether he’s delivering an impassioned yet poorly-thought-out defense of his cheese-making obsession, or succumbing to depression and checking the mail while wearing nothing but cowboy boots and a pair of tighty-whities, he handles all of the absurdities Virgil must endure with an enviable, believable, ease. Andrews imbues Angie with an authentic mix of romanticism and practicality, you can see the wheels turning as she goes from enthusiasm to exasperation over Virgil’s choices.

Steven Taylor Fry’s Yens is kind of like the comic relief for the comic relief that is Virgil and Artois, going from deadpan to extreme and back again in a blink. He’s brilliant. As is Dan Braverman playing the Hermit who owns the land upon which Virgil dreams, literally, of building his goat farm. The facial expressions on these two actors alone are enough to justify all the awards this film has won.

Virtually unseen until late in the story is Sarah Holland, who plays Eva Verrane, an expert on making cheeses whose book inspires Virgil. However, her voice narrates sequences throughout, and its smooth tones add depth to the other performances while simultaneously lending an even greater surreal quality to this weird and whimsical tale.

Artois the Goat doesn’t have any DVD bonus features beyond the trailer (which is brilliant even after viewing the film, by the way), and doesn’t need them, because as noted earlier, there’s something for everyone in the film itself, including a classic love story ending. The boy gets the goat!

RATING 8 / 10