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Carnal Knowledge (1971)

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Arthur Garfunkel, Candice Bergen, more...
Director: Mike Nichols
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Studio: MGM
Running Time: 98 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French
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"Maybe you're not supposed to like it with someone you love." With a script by satirist and cartoonist Jules Feiffer, Mike Nichols's Carnal Knowledge (1971) ruthlessly exposed the damage wrought by pre-1960s sexual mores. From their post-World War II college years at Amherst through the Vietnam era, buddies Jonathan (Jack Nicholson) and Sandy (Art Garfunkel) are a catalogue of male sexual dysfunction. Sensitive Sandy falls in love with and marries college sweetheart Susan (Candice Bergen) only to wonder years later if he missed out on finding the perfect sex/love partner. Jonathan lives for aggressive sexual conquest (starting with Sandy's Susan in college), even as he rails against female "ballbusters," finally guilt-marrying his tiredly voluptuous mistress Bobbie (Ann-Margret, in an Oscar-nominated performance) after she tries to kill herself. By the late '60s, Sandy has moved on to a hippie chick girlfriend (Carol Kane) who can raise his consciousness about the sexual revolution, and Jonathan is single again, but Sandy is a little too old for the peace-and-love generation, and Jonathan bitterly faces emasculating impotence. ~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Desperation & Disillusionment by Misshaped June 12, 2004 - 7:08 PM PDT
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
This film is well crafted and positions each of the characters on the edge of an emotional breaking point. We watch them come together and eventually implode under the weight of their relationship issues.

The two main characters are almost polar opposites. Jonathan (Jack Nicholson) contantly flashes that salacious grin, but behind the wall of teeth hides a man who feels each woman in his life burned him and stole something precious from him...his youthful vitality & potency. Sandy (Art Garfunkel) displays a desperation and ineptness towards his first girlfriend (Candice Bergen), and she stays with him not because she is attracted to him, but because he is "safe"...a known in a world of dangerous relationships. Jonathan eventually shacks up with a sexy woman slightly past her prime (Ann Margaret). She is his ideal in many ways, but can she continue in an empty relationship built solely on physicality?

As we follow the growth of these men, we peek into their bedrooms and hope to see something titillating and erotic, but instead we're left feeling the emptyness that comes from failure. It is a dark and very honest film.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.33)
110 Votes
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