#172 – Daniel, the Fart Catcher

(1998, GB, 93 min) Dir Alastair Hirst. Cast David Thewlis, Clive Owen, Jane Horrocks, Kevin McKidd, Ewan Bremner.

Period comedy. Apparently a fart catcher was the derogatory term for a footman or valet in the 18th and 19th century and, in this, David Thewlis is Daniel, the fart catcher for the bastardly Lord Everdice (Owen). Everdice, having lost his family’s fortunes on the baccarat tables of Europe, now desires to wed Lady Balthirst (Horrocks), the only child of the fantastically wealthy Balthirst family who remains unwed due to the fact that she’s a kleptomaniac with Tourette’s. Daniel, on the other hand, has been taken in the employ of Balthirst père to make sure this doesn’t happen and must now try his damnedest to sabotage his masters amorous advances without raising suspicion. Further complicating matters are Brush and Wash (McKidd and Bremner, reunited from Trainspotting) who, in the service of Balthirst mère who just wants her daughter wed no matter the cost, are trying valiantly (if ineptly) to sabotage Daniel’s sabotagings. To the film’s advantage it’s directed by Alastair Hirst, costume drama veteran of 1985’s Buried Hearts and the 1992 TV adaptation of J. Langdon Beetleman’s Staedtler Quartet so the form of the film is very much in keeping with the genre being mocked. The film’s disadvantages are chiefly two – one is that it’s directed by Alastair Hirst, who may have directed a good few costume dramas but hasn’t directed a comedy, and the other is that one is constantly reminded in the watching of the film of how much better Blackadder would have handled the same material.


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