Geraldine Page, Interiors

Saturday, March 23, 2013


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"...Geraldine Page, on the other hand, is a revelation. So mannered and tricky years ago in her much praised movie performances in Summer and Smoke and Sweet Bird of Youth, she's a plainer actress now; as the psychotic Eve she unnerves us by letting her face crumple and her unmoored voice drift off into a querulous whine. Heavy and jowly, swathed in flowing gray robes, she is the Manhattan matron in extremis, both pitiful and terrifying." 

                   David Denby, New York, August 14, 1978 

"And Geraldine Page makes a magnificent Eve. A heavy, redoubtable woman in immaculate gray suits, she's an ice queen fending off terror and madness. As she struggles with her demons, her face collapses, her forehead wars with her eyes and she pulls her mouth into a knot, as if to keep the agony from spilling out. Page has often been crafty to the point of manipulation; here, we never catch her "acting," and her lived-in anguish is very moving indeed."

                   Stephen Schiff, Boston Phoenix, August ?, 1978

"The portrait of Eve is a masterful balancing act, a blend of irony and compassion. Geraldine Page's searing performance keeps us in a tense, ambivalent relationship with the character throughout the movie."

                   Stephen Farber, New West, September 11, 1978

“…. Geraldine Page is playing neurosis incarnate, and the camera is too close to her, especially when her muscles collapse: this failure of discretion makes her performance seem abhorrent."

                   Pauline Kael, The New Yorker, September 25, 1978

“...Page works with much less affectation than usual and Stapleton with many fewer clichés.”

                   Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic, 
                               September 9, 1978

“She contributed a performance of exquisite enclosed self-pity to a movie that required exactly and only that, Interiors…”

                    David Thomson, A Biographical Dictionary of Film,
                                Second edition, 1981, p. 458


Geraldine Page: "I like the characterization in Interiors. I like the choices that I made. I really admired the degree to which I was able to convey that kind of covered and restrained behavior, where everything had to be almost unexpressed.

Joanmarie Kalter:  "I thought it was very interesting the other day when you said that Woody Allen constantly told you to do less and less; the character was, in fact, evading so many things, and so that direction seemed to work very well for the role.

GP:  And that's why, when things did burst out of her, they were irrevocable. She never let off any of her steam.

JK:  How did you come by the facial expressions that you used?

GP:  Who knows? It's very hard to tell what knowledge and associations and skills went into it because there are so many. I think they always come from your subtext, your inner monologue; whatever it is that your character is thinking at any given moment. That's more or less what you see reflected in the facial expressions.

JK:  Do you carefully plan out what the character is thinking?

GP:  No. I used to, but over the years, I have learned that if I preconceive what the character is thinking, it's not going to be as interesting or as varied as if I just go along and see what the character turns out to be thinking at the moment. Usually, if a line of inner thought seems to be working well, I keep it in. But if something happens to change, then I explore it. And it's wonderful with a role like Eve in Interiors; she's reminiscent of a character in a Chekhov play whose inner life is much more complicated than her outer life; it's just not expressed overtly. While she has very deep, complex inner thoughts, all she's doing is serving tea or something, yet her strong feelings come through even in that very simple behavior.

One of my favorite moments is at the birthday party when I'm sitting there but can't allow myself to show how straining it is to be surrounded by my family. When my son-in-law pours the champagne, I love the way it comes across how I disapprove, how I'm suffering through this: just the merest, tiniest fraction of a drop spills on my hand, but I wipe it off with such long suffering. I like that....


                     Geraldine Page 
                     Interviewed by JoanMarie Kalter,
                                 Actors on Acting: Performing in Theatre
                                 & Film Today, 1979, p. 27

"She was at that time our greatest actress in that age group. And she seemed perfect for the part. She's very dynamic and expressive and very refined. In general, I like to trust the actors; when an actor is doing something that's good and meaningful, I just like to leave the camera on them and let them be there and not bother them. And Geraldine Page was that kind of actress, somebody to trust."

                    Woody Allen
                     Interviewed by Stig Bjorkman, 
                                 Woody Allen on Woody Allen (1993)

"When Woody gave her direction, she smiled, nodded her head politely, then completely disregarded everything he said...."

                    Diane Keaton, Then Again, p. 144
                                 (Random House, 2012)


Geraldine Page, interviewed by Joanmarie Kalter

"[W]hile some people have difficulty verbalizing the intricacies of their craft, listening to garrulous, gleeful Geraldine Page is like racing around under a shower of gold coins with nothing but a small hat to catch them..."

          Joanmarie KalterActors on Acting:
          Performing in Theatre & Film Today (1979), p. 5

"Though Geraldine Page is known for the strict attention she pays to the inner detail of a role, in person, she's sweet, chatty, loose, and light-hearted. During this interview, which was held backstage at the Eugene O'Neill Theater in New York, Ms. Page wore a long, wide floppy dress, no make-up, and chomped down a tuna fish sandwich as we talked. She very much enjoyed discussing her craft, relating old stories about friends, teachers and colleagues--all the while gesturing animatedly in the spirit, as she says, of 'a terrible ham.' Her high-pitched, fragile-sounding voice dips easily to a deep, resonant one, and then into a child-like whisper; she mimics accents perfectly; shifts her shoulders and head to assume the poses of her subjects--and does it all lovingly and with great relish....



"This interview took place on two occasions a few days apart, both backstage at the [Eugene] O'Neill [Theatre] in New York [City]. The movie Interiors, directed by Woody Allen, had just been released, but by an interesting and fortuitous accident, on the first afternoon we talked, Ms. Page had not yet seen it, and on the second afternoon, she had...."

                    Kalter,  p. 10.

JK:  "When you accept a role, for instance, Eve in Woody Allen's Interiors, how do you proceed? Do you first study your own part or do you study the script as a whole?

GP:  I read the script, and while I'm reading it, I envision it as if I were in the audience. And that's it. But I always hesitate to say that either to students or to anyone who will put it in print; people will assume that all you have to do is read something and then you can get up and act professionally. You can't. If you put down first that I am a graduate of a regular drama school, that I spent seven years in winter and summer stock, that I studied seven years with Uta Hagen and two years with Mira Rostova, and was at the Actors Studio for ten years, then if I say I read a script, but it away and don't think about it, it's not as misleading. The training that I have is in my brain and it works on material in not-so-conscious ways. I have all sorts of complicated, computerized knowledge stored away in the back of my mind. When I do then wing it, a lot of work has been done that I wouldn't have time to sit down and explain to everybody. That sounds pretentious, but the only alternative is to be very cavalier...."

                    Kalter,  p. 17-18.

JK:  "What was it about Uta Hagen's training that was particularly helpful to you?


GP:  "...[H]er war against cliche is absolutely thrilling. She would say, 'People don't do that. That's what people on stage always do a a moment like that. The population of the world is so vast and we're all different, and there are so many ways of acting.'

"She'd say, 'You've read the script, but in life we don't know from one moment to the next what we're going to say. We don't know what the person opposite us is going to do. We haven't got it planned out.'....

JK:  "....That's one of the classic problems faced by an actor, isn't it? To give the illusion that these lines and these actions are actually happening, and not planned in advance.


GP:  "There was another trick she [Uta Hagen] taught us in that same vein. Because your character has not read the script, you go through your score (she was always comparing drama to music and noting how close they are), and whenever something's going to happen, you persuade your character to expect something different. That way your character is continually surprised. if the person you're talking to is going to get up and go out of the room, your character should expect that they're going to stay--and vice versa. It helps give you the illusion of freshness. She taught us all these wonderful, magical, practical things."

JK:  "You studied with Mira Rostova at the American Academy, too.

GP:  "The things I learned from Mira Rostova were fantastic! It's easy for me to remember them because they were very concise events learned at a specific time, on a specific piece of material, with one sentence or two that's indelible.

JK:  "Would you give me an example?

GP:  "I'd love to! I was doing a scene from The Girl on the Via Flaminia, and when I got through with it, she said, 'Geraldine...' (After every scene she used to look as if we'd killed her; she'd sit for a long time with her eyelashes on her cheeks and groan.) 'Geraldine,' she said, you pause before you speak to think whether you should speak. You pause in the middle to think whether you should continue to speak; and you pause at the end to think whether you should have spoken.' She was silent for another five minutes, and then she said, 'People talk to each other. Please do this scene again and talk to the young man.'

"I thought, oh, this is ridiculous. Here in this scene, this girl is in fear of her life; half the time she's answering these questions, she's lying, and the other half, she's telling the truth. It's a matter of life or death. Any little miss or slip one way or the other, and she's going to her doom. You just can't go blah-de-blah-blah. I thought, I'll show her. So I started the scene the way she suggested and I found that all the pauses I had made so clearly before were now taking place in the middle of syllables. The character sounded so much more uncertain and anxious. It was so exciting--the class was amazed; the scene was terrific.

"And it was a similar thing when we worked on Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky. I played the prostitute and when her client asks about her life, she goes on and on about all the tsuris in her family. Everybody's blind and starving and dead and all these horrible things. Well, I played it out and after everybody was bored with the scene, Mira said, 'Geraldine, you have done a great deal of work on the background, and this will not be lost. But my dear, you are a prostitute with a customer and if you do not cheer up this customer and make him happy, your madam will be very angry with you, and you will be even more miserable than you are now.'

"By this time, I knew enough not to question her. So we did the scene again and I was sort of bright and cheery, and I told about my little brother and how he lost his legs, and how we didn't have anything to eat in the house, and how cold it was, and the roof leaked. And the more I tried to be cheerful about it, the more heart-rending the scene became. The prostitute was trying to cover up, or didn't realize that not everyone had had such a horrible life. It became much more poignant.

JK:  And what have been the advantages of Stanislavsky's Method for you, of trying to link your own personal experiences to those of your character?

GP:  Well, that everybody does, either consciously or unconsciously. Stanislavsky was trying to get down what the best actors always do anyway; he didn't invent anything. So even actors who sneer at the Method, are militant against it, or conversely, have never heard of it, when they get up and act, they use themselves. The Method is also a matter of who's teaching it...

But what happens when you study that aspect of acting (no matter who's teaching it) is that you find more analogies between yourself and the material than you thought you had. The Method allows you to discover less obvious connections between yourself and your character. You find some very deflected things that also relate. It opens up a whole filed of connections you can consciously bring from yourself. You bring a lot unconsciously and automatically, but the Method widens your perception; you can then add more of your own colors to the tapestry of your character.

JK:  Trying consciously to establish connections between yourself and the character enriches the unconscious process that would happen anyway?

GP:  Well, it also depends on who's doing the work. For instance, you and I have seen actors who were so busy making conscious connections to their characters that they swamped the material; instead of enriching it, they smothered it. It can enrich if it's done right, otherwise it can hinder. People get so enamored with these techniques of exploring parts of themselves, that they forget what the object is. As an actor, you must do the fullest, best, most interesting interpretation of the character, and not the the fullest, most wonderful exposition of your own discoveries of yourself. So, it doesn't necessarily help the end product all the time. But it's all fraught with interesting dangers.

                      Kalter,  p. 18-21.

JK:  You haven't seen your performance yet in Woody Allen's Interiors?

GP:  I tried to. What I like to do, what is really good for me to do, is to go to the dailies. That way, I can see exactly what happened the day before so I can adjust my sights to see what I'm doing now.... I have proved to director after director that I am very good and I'm quiet and I don't start telling them how to do things. I just learn for myself. And contrary to shaking my confidence, I always feel better. I say, 'Oh. It wasn't as bad as I thought. Oh, I know what to do about that.' And so I've had a marvelous time. But Woody, who is ... well, he is paranoid. He would not allow it. I thought I'd finally persuaded him and he did say, 'Okay, you can look at the rushes. They'll be Saturday morning.' I couldn't believe it. He's finally going to let me see some! Then on Friday he said, 'Well, it's so close to Christmas and the projectionist doesn't want to come in....' I never did see any of it.

JK:  Did you find that a particularly difficult role?

GP:  Well, in a way. I felt I understood the character; that part didn't bother me so much. But the execution of it was extremely difficult because of pleasing Woody. I would do a scene a particular way and he would say, 'That's too ... I just don't believe that.' Me, the specialist in realism? Then we'd go back and do it again and he's say, 'Ah, it's just....' He doesn't have any of the Method's verbiage or even the non-Method director's vocabulary at all. All he ever says is, 'Well, I don't like it....'

JK:  In other words, he didn't tell you in any specific way what he wanted?

GP:  Yeah, he's say, 'It's still like somebody you see playing an interior decorator in the movies. I just want the woman to come in and put down her handbag.' It was exasperating and very difficult; I kept trying to simplify and simplify and take all the theatrical things out. But still he's say, 'No, that's like on the stage. Just come in and put the bag down.' He didn't even go so far as to say, 'Don't put the bag down like....' He would just shake his head. I'd say, 'What' wrong with that? How much simpler can I be?' I'd go back and do it again.

But what was wonderful was that I agreed with his taste. When he said he didn't like it, I believed it; I know that if I saw it, I would agree with him. That's wonderful because you can't always trust those decisions, yet in this case, I knew. When people tell me it's some of my best work, I'm very inclined to believe they must be telling the truth. God knows, every director I've ever worked with has tried in various ways to get me to simplify, especially for movies.

JK:  You were playing someone who was coming apart at the seams. Was it difficult then to do take after take?

GP:  It was only difficult technically. I love to do someone coming apart at the seams over and over again. I love it. What was difficult was doing it ever simpler and ever simpler. Even if it was a happy scene, it would have been just as difficult to do it as 'specifically' as he required. But that had nothing to do with the character at all. As a matter of fact, one of the scenes I loved the most was going in and getting knocked down by the waves--and I can't even swim. By the way, is that scene in? Do I walk in the ocean in the movie? I loved that. I can't understand these actors who talk about how they live a part, how they suffer. The poor things. Why don't they do something else that they like better? What a bunch of complainers!

JK:  But to act such an emotional role--doesn't it drain you?

GP:  On the contrary, it makes me feel terrific. There's something about releasing all those tensions in acting that's very cathartic. It feels really good. If you take a dance class or a singing lesson, for instance, and spend that kind of energy, you feel great. I felt terrific after they dragged me out of the water.



What is a drag, what gets you down, gets you morose, is having to sit around and wait and do nothing--that is really killing. You get exhausted and irritable. But an emotional scene, even the most wrenching, is wonderful. It's a funny contradiction, but it's true. What drives everybody crazy is having to sit for a long time. And for that movie, we did have to sit. But we were a resourceful company, and we had Scrabble, we had backgammon, we had chess, a dart board, and Maureen [Stapleton] knew a wonderful word game that she had us all play. We had a wonderful time, and it distracted us from the fact that we had to sit for so long. We thought Woody was a stickler for absolutely having things right, but Gordon Willis, the cinematographer, would look at the sky all day and say, 'The clouds aren't right; they're just not right.' So we'd go back to our games.

PART II

JK:  "What do you think about Interiors now that you've seen it?

GP:  Oh, it's so compelling and I'm so pleased about my work in it. It's an unusual film. It's so spare.

JK:  Did you picture your performance as you saw it?

GP:  Well, I worried about a lot of things, and I see now that I didn't have to. I worried about the continuity of the character--for instance, exactly when she had her first breakdown, how much time passed between her relapses, etcetera. Woody told me not to worry about those things, so I didn't. And when I finally saw the film, Rip [Torn] remarked what a lesson it was. We all have a tendency to think that kind of logical detail is so essential. But this movie proved that you can have an emotional understanding of the story without worrying about all that."


JK:  Are you generally satisfied with your performances when you see yourself in films or on TV?

GP:  I have a wide variety of reactions. Mostly though, I'm fairly pleased, although some things I like more than others. But I like the characterization in Interiors. I like the choices that I made. I really admired the degree to which I was able to convey that kind of covered and restrained behavior, where everything had to be almost unexpressed.

JK:  I thought it was very interesting the other day when you said that Woody Allen constantly told you to do less and less; the character was, in fact, evading so many things, and so that direction seemed to work very well for the role.

GP:  And that's why, when things did burst out of her, they were irrevocable. She never let off any of her steam.

JK:  How did you come by the facial expressions that you used?

GP:  Who knows? It's very hard to tell what knowledge and associations and skills went into it because there are so many. I think they always come from your subtext, your inner monologue; whatever it is that your character is thinking at any given moment. That's more or less what you see reflected in the facial expressions.

JK:  Do you carefully plan out what the character is thinking?

GP:  No. I used to, but over the years, I have learned that if I preconceive what the character is thinking, it's not going to be as interesting or as varied as if I just go along and see what the character turns out to be thinking at the moment. Usually, if a line of inner thought seems to be working well, I keep it in. But if something happens to change, then I explore it. And it's wonderful with a role like Eve in Interiors; she's reminiscent of a character in a Chekhov play whose inner life is much more complicated than her outer life; it's just not expressed overtly. While she has very deep, complex inner thoughts, all she's doing is serving tea or something, yet her strong feelings come through even in that very simple behavior.

One of my favorite moments is at the birthday party when I'm sitting there but can't allow myself to show how straining it is to be surrounded by my family. When my son-in-law pours the champagne, I love the way it comes across how I disapprove, how I'm suffering through this: just the merest, tiniest fraction of a drop spills on my hand, but I wipe it off with such long suffering. I like that.

JK:  Did you draw on any particular emotional memories of your own for that scene?

GP:  Oh, I'm sure, but not in a conscious way. We've all been someplace where we had to behave nicely even though people were driving us batty. We couldn't protest, we couldn't get up and leave, we had to sit and put up with it. I'm sure that a variety of those experiences merged in my mind, rose up to that part of the script, and responded to it.

Uta explained this one time in class when somebody was having a lot of trouble and saying, 'I can't identify with this situation. It's too big; it's too tragic for my experience.' She told us a story about getting on the bus to come over to the study that day, and how she had been going back to her seat when the driver said, 'Miss! Miss!' She realized he was talking to her, calling her back because she hadn't put her money in the slot. And she said the force of the emotions funneling through her at that moment, of shame, of embarrassment, of wanting to murder him, of feeling put upon against all justice, was enormous. There was enough emotion raging through her on that bus, she told us, to take care of this part, that part, and another part. It was a wonderful thing to be reminded of; the kind of outsized emotions we can have over a small incident. All an actor has to do is remember that. So you don't have to be the kind of woman that Eve is to have lived intensely through the same kinds of feelings.

JK:  You don't have to have murdered to play a murderer.

GP:  To play Lady Macbeth, you don't have to go out and find a king and kill him.

JK:  I have the impression that, in fact, your identification with Eve must have been very remote.

GP:  Yes, I'm a very very different personality. The fact that she's so completely neat, God knows, nothing could be further from me. I can't keep my mind on neatness; neat types find me terribly lax. It's very funny because I heard that Woody was amused--and maybe not so amused--that it took me so long to get ready. I spent so much time on my make-up, in making sure that every hair was in place. And he may have thought that was a character trait of mine. But if I were playing myself, we wouldn't have to do any of that. I'd be on the set saying, 'Get away from me with that powder puff and comb. Stay away. I'm all ready.' That's something I have done when they've tried to neaten up a character I thought should be frowsy. But with Eve, I thought that if there were one little thing out of place, she'd just snap. And so I deliberately would not get in front of the camera until I felt that things were exactly as Eve would want them to be.

JK:  Do you have any difficulty crying on cue? You really have leaky ducts in the movie.

GP:  I don't have too much trouble crying, yet that 'on cue' business can be difficult. Sometimes I'll cry earlier or later, but not where the script says, 'She cries.' As for what it is I think about, there are so many things to make you cry in the world. It's endless. So many things to get upset about.

JK:  Do you remind yourself of some particular image that will make you cry?

GP:  You don't have to. If you go along with the story and you identify with the person you're playing and they're in a situation that is causing them grief and anguish, you just cry....

JK:  What are the kinds of problems you encounter now?

GP:  Well, most of my mental activity about acting goes into interpretation. It goes into working out an inner life for my character. That's what interests me most... Now, with a character like the one in Interiors, I had almost no problem thinking up an inner life; it seemed very clear to me once I stopped worrying about the continuity.... 

  

Woody Allen interviewed by Stig Bjorkman

SB:  Much of the story revolves around the mother, Eve. Even when she's not there, her presence in the life and actions of the others if very strong. Her husband, Arthur, says about her: 'She'd created a world around us that we existed in ... where everything had its place, where there was always a kind of harmony. A great dignity ... it was like an ice palace.'

WA:  Yes, she's definitely the central character.

SB:  She is a very domineering mother figure, and in many of your films you've had a succession of very strong mothers. Why does she occupy such a great interest in your films? Is this, do you think, a specific American phenomenon? 


WA:  No, the fathers are strong American dramatic figures as well. I've just been more comfortable in recent years with female characters. So mothers have loomed more potently in my films. But I wouldn't mind writing a film about a strong father.

SB:  Was your mother a very strong figure in your life as well?


WA:  No. She's alive. She was fine. She is pleasant. I'm friendly with her. Both my father and my mother live very near me. I guess you can say, she was a very typical mother. A little too strict maybe, but basically nice.

SB:  Here in Interiors the mother is impersonated by Geraldine Page.

WA:  She was at that time our greatest actress in that age group. And she seemed perfect for the part. She's very dynamic and expressive and very refined. In general, I like to trust the actors; when an actor is doing something that's good and meaningful, I just like to leave the camera on them and let them be there and not bother them. And Geraldine Page was that kind of actress, somebody to trust.

SB:  Her environs are also very important and they reflect her character to a great deal.

WA:   I wanted the Geraldine Page character to have everything harmonious and cool. And just the right amount of furniture. No more. And when this poor man who has been living with her for years finally breaks out, he picks a completely different kind of wife. A much more vital one. I felt that the daughter Joey played by Mary Beth Hurt was in the worst predicament of all, because Joey had no talent. She was full of feelings, but she had no way of expressing them. She is a victim of this terrible mother. I had a feeling myself, when the mother died at the end and Joey got this kiss of life from this other mother, that she was reborn and that there would be more hope for her in the future....

from Woody Allen on Woody Allen: In Conversation with Stig Bjorkman (Sweden, 1993).

 

 

Diane Keaton

"....The only things that distracted me from my discomfort in the role were legendary Geraldine Page and Sandy Meisner's favorite actress, Maureen Stapleton.

"Every morning Geraldine Page trudged to the set in rags, lugging two shopping bags full of mending. She'd bend over, pull out her husband Rip Torn's old clothes, and patch his pants while she was in the makeup chair. I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that one of the greatest actresses in the world was a bag lady. If anything, her homeless appearance added to her charisma. When Woody gave her direction, she smiled, nodded her head politely, then completely disregarded everything he said. Before one of her extremely emotional close-ups, I stood next to the camera, about to feed her my lines, when she point-blank asked me to leave. As I watch from a distance, I understood. My presence would have stolen her freedom. Maybe all that Neighborhood Playhouse sharing with your fellow actors, all that living truthfully together in the given imaginary moment, wasn't for everyone. Geraldine Page was an acting genius. Rules don't apply to genius."

-- Diane Keaton, Then Again, (Random House: 2012), p. 144-45

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From the Youtube channel of kuantummekanik-- scene of Page and E.G. Marshall in the church: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2K5etVOtWA


Interiors (Woody Allen) - Geraldine Page and E.G. Marshall


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The magnificent performance by Geraldine Page in Woody Allen's Interiors--inspired in tone and character by Ingmar Bergman's films. One of Allen's "serious" films, gorgeous cinematography, and an all-around devastating look at the how cold and manipulative family relations can be. Perhaps Allen's most insightful exercise. Not easy to watch; many people give up on this film before it's well underway, but it builds into a dramatic payoff that is nothing less than brilliant.

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(originally posted in Intersections on March 23, 2013.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

David Denby

“…. [T]he movie is about a large family's agonized relations with the family matriarch, Eve (Geraldine Page), a kind of earth mother in reverse--she draws life and energy out of her husband and children, leaving them half paralyzed with guilt.

“An accomplished and beautiful woman, Eve dominates her family with hysterical good taste, imposing her style on everyone's home, so that none of her offspring can escape her. Since her imperiousness is accompanied by unending self-pity and a readiness to find betrayal in the slightest holding back of affection, her children can neither live up to her standards nor simply offer their love without losing their self-respect. When this piteous Queen Lear is finally abandoned by her husband (E. G. Marshall), she falls apart, drifting toward madness and death…

“…. Woody Allen pushes for the maximum intensity out of his actresses. I had trouble accepting Diane Keaton's stiff-backed irritability as a poet's despair, but Geraldine Page, on the other hand, is a revelation. So mannered and tricky years ago in her much praised movie performances in Summer and Smoke and Sweet Bird of Youth, she's a plainer actress now; as the psychotic Eve she unnerves us by letting her face crumple and her unmoored voice drift off into a querulous whine. Heavy and jowly, swathed in flowing gray robes, she is the Manhattan matron in extremis, both pitiful and terrifying. Matching her in intensity in the thankless role of Joey, Marybeth Hurt clenches her teeth and sets her jaw tight, her face hardened against the rejection Joey expects. Since her expression is nearly immobile, the performance moves us strictly through vocal nuance….

David Denby
New York, August 14, 1978

Stephen Schiff

“…. Its central figure is the family matriarch, Eve (Geraldine Page), a regal, domineering interior decorator who has imposed her obsessive good taste on her husband and three grown daughters until it's smothered the life and love out of them. Compulsive, manipulative and paranoid … Eve is not an endearing character, but her emotional frailty makes her genuinely pitiable. When her long-suffering husband (E.G. Marshall) finally leaves her…, Eve comes unglued, and her descent into madness and self-annihilation is truly unnerving….

“Still, some of the performances are engrossing. Marybeth Hurt's still, taut Joey has the clear, timid eyes and clenched jaw of someone who expects pain, a prisoner awaiting the whip. And Geraldine Page makes a magnificent Eve. A heavy, redoubtable woman in immaculate gray suits, she's an ice queen fending off terror and madness. As she struggles with her demons, her face collapses, her forehead wars with her eyes and she pulls her mouth into a knot, as if to keep the agony from spilling out. Page has often been crafty to the point of manipulation; here, we never catch her "acting," and her lived-in anguish is very moving indeed. Unfortunately, Diane Keaton's haggard performance, for all the courage in its plainness, is a disaster….”

“… [Pearl's] galvanizing entrance could have sabotaged Interiors. Even if we'd previously been inclined to take this dour family seriously, how can we once Pearl's vivacity has punctured gloom? She reveals Keaton, Griffith, Hurt and even Page for the spoiled children they are, and their spiritual poverty suddenly seems, well, laughable.

“Perhaps what's most remarkable about Interiors is that this sudden shift in perspective saves the film instead of ruining it….”

Stephen Schiff
Boston Phoenix, 1978

[left out some on both above?]

Stephen Farber

“…. The satiric edge of his comedies is implicit in the complex, hard-edged portraiture of a group of gifted, maddening, self-indulgent people.

“To take just one example, the family matriarch, Eve (Geraldine Page), is a high-strung aesthete who's ordered her family's lives for as long as they can remember. Her reverence for art takes the form of fanatical attention to details of interior decoration…. It's impossible not to laugh at her compulsive attention to detail, and in his earlier films, Allen would have mocked her more ruthlessly. This time he cuts deeper; he sympathetically points out the disorientation she feels when her husband leaves her and her orderly life begins to crumble. The portrait of Eve is a masterful balancing act, a blend of irony and compassion. Geraldine Page's searing performance keeps us in a tense, ambivalent relationship with the character throughout the movie.

“One startling moment epitomizes the tone of the film. When Eve attempts to commit suicide by turning on the gas oven, she first seals all the windows in her apartment with black masking tape. Unfortunately, the tape runs out just before she completes her grisly task, and she has to finish the job with a tiny roll of white adhesive tape. The scene itself recalls Liv Ullmann's suicide attempt in Face to Face, but the subtle, subversive, macabre joke about the white adhesive tape is a touch that Bergman never would have dreamed of including….”

Stephen Farber
New West, September 11, 1978

Pauline Kael

“…. The problem for the family in the film is the towering figure of the disciplined, manipulative, inner-directed mother (Geraldine Page). She is such a perfectionist that she cannot enjoy anything, and the standards of taste and achievement that she imposes on her three daughters tie them in such knots that they all consider themselves failures. Alvy Singer, the role Woody Allen played in Annie Hall, was just such a compulsive, judgmental spoilsport, and Allen's original title for that film was Anhedonia--the lack of the capacity for experiencing pleasure.

“…. The two mothers [Eve and Pearl] appear to be the two sides of the mythic dominating Jewish matriarch--the one dedicated to spiritual perfection, the other to sensual appetites, security, getting along in the world, cracking a few jokes. It's part of the solemn unease of the film that no one would want either of them for a mother: they're both bigger than life, and the first is a nightmare of sexual austerity, the second an embarrassment of yielding flesh and middle-class worldliness. If the two are warring for control of Woody Allen, the first (the real mother) clearly has him in the stronger grip. She represents the death of the instincts, but she also represents art, or at least cultivation and pseudo-art. (As a decorator, her specialty, like Woody Allen's here, seems to be the achievement of a suffocating emptiness.)….

“…. Geraldine Page is playing neurosis incarnate, and the camera is too close to her, especially when her muscles collapse: this failure of discretion makes her performance seem abhorrent. But Maureen Stapleton livens things up with her rather crudely written role. Hers is the only role that isn't strictly thematic, and you can feel the audience awake from its torpor when she arrives on the scene and talks like a conventional stage character….”

Pauline Kael
New Yorker, September 25, 1978
When the Lights Go Down, 437-9
[Kael was one of the few Keaton supporters for this movie.]

David Thomson

“She contributed a performance of exquisite enclosed self-pity to a movie that required exactly and only that, Interiors…”

David Thomson
A Biographical Dictionary of Film,
Second Edition, 1981, p 458

Vincent Canby

“The most vital and believable character in the entire film is Arthur’s intended, Pearl, a good-hearted, none-too-bright widow played with enormous humanity and humor by Maureen Stapleton….

“Two sequences with Miss Page are among the memorable things of this film season—the one in which the camera catches her confused reactions as her husband coolly announces his plans for a separation, and the other, which is virtually a subliminal shot, showing the actress in three-quarters profile, sitting in a darkened room, sipping white wine and watching a Christian revivalist on television. This is one way the world can end.”

Vincent Canby
The New York Times, August 6, 1978

“Maureen Stapleton is a fine actress, who fully deserves the attention she has received for her work in Woody Allen’s “Interiors,” yet how can one sanely support giving her an award for “Interiors” without recognizing Geraldine Page’s extraordinary performance in the same film?”

Canby
January 7, 1979, sec 2, p 13 & 19
(like above, from my note cards)

Stanley Kauffmann

“…. Much has been made of the fact that [Allen] has moved from a Jewish view of the world to a gentile one. I deplore this, too, because I sense the Arthur Miller syndrome: if you are a Jew and want to write on large tragic matters, you must use gentile characters in order to get universality. Allen's characters are not, like those in Death of a Salesman, feebly disguised Jews; but they are abstracts, conjectures, with nothing of the reality that, for instance, the gentile Annie Hall had when avowedly seen through Jewish eyes.

“All the actors are acceptable, and I ought to note that Page works with much less affectation than usual and Stapleton with many fewer clichés.”

Stanley Kauffmann
The New Republic, Sept. 9, 1978
Before My Eyes, p 147
[don't have whole review]

[Like Farber, Kauffmann liked the scene where Eve ran out of tape during her suicide attempt.]