Midnight Matinees


266 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-19-540504-8





Reviewed by Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick is a librarian at Ryerson Polytechnical University.


The first part of this book of film criticism contains essays, most of which are reworkings and expansions of Scott’s articles from the Globe and Mail; they cover a range of film subjects and writing styles. Scott can be bitingly satiric and amusing in pieces like the Cannes Film Festival diary, composed mainly of serious celebrity quotes full of unintentional humor, and in his behind-the-scenes stories of the film premiers of “The Right Stuff’ and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” each of which is written in a comic, if somewhat tiresome, vernacular style of the particular film. Essays written in a more serious, but still witty, style include his informative history of Canadian film, insightful and thought-provoking overviews of the work of Fassbinder and of American teen movies, and impressions of Cuban life and art during a film festival in Havana. The second part of the book reprints film reviews from the Globe and Mail, dating from 1978 to 1985. These reviews are arranged alphabetically by title, although they were written over an eight-year period. A chronological arrangement might have given the reader more of an indication of the development of Scott’s critical perspective. The reason for the arrangement is perhaps found in the blurb on the back of the book, where it is stated that the reviews were “chosen with an eye to availability on video and at revival houses.” The first part of this statement is particularly ironic in light of Scott’s comments in his Introduction on the difference in impact of seeing some films on video (like seeing the Mona Lisa printed on a bath towel). The blurb and the arrangement seem to indicate that the review section is intended as a quick-reference “shall we see it” guide; but the reviews go far beyond the superficial “what’s it about, is it good?” level. Scott’s discussions, of both good and bad films, are thoughtful and entertaining, and they make good reading both before and after seeing a film. This collection is basically journalistic, written in a popular style for a general audience, rather than in-depth analyses for students of film theory, but the work is of significance, since, as film reviewer for the Globe and Mail since 1978, Scott is one of this country’s most important and influential film critics.


Scott, Jay, “Midnight Matinees,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35725.