The film traces the sexual and emotional confusion of two men from their Amherst College days in the fifties through the Kennedy sixties, up to the Vietnam era. Jonathan, a successful tax ... See full summary »
The film traces the sexual and emotional confusion of two men from their Amherst College days in the fifties through the Kennedy sixties, up to the Vietnam era. Jonathan, a successful tax attorney and Sandy, a physician, personify two extremes of self-delusion and self-aggrandizement: Jonathan makes the mistake of thinking sex is love, and embarks on a lifetime of sexual conquest; Sandy dedicates himself to the pursuit of an idealized woman and the dreamy spiritual completeness to be found therein. In Bobbie Jonathan finds a partner whose masochism compliments his selfishness and emotional ambivalence. Jonathan does not want her to hold a job, but neither does he like the fact that she spends all day in bed sleeping, or watching TV. Sandy falls in love with his first college romance, Susan; they marry and have children. But Sandy is haunted by the fear that he was too hasty, even though he and Susan lead a happy domestic life and strive to reinvigorate their sex life by making love "... Written by
After working with Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider (1969), Karen Black went to Mike Nichols, on recommendation from Jack, to test for the role of Bobbie. It was mutually decided that Karen did not have the right figure for the role. See more »
If you had a choice...
Would you rather love a girl, or have her love you?
I want it mutual.
I mean if you couldn't have it mutual.
You mean would I rather be the one who loves, or is loved?
It's not that easy a question. But, I think I'd rather be in love.
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A talky, oddly stage-bound film (though it's not based on a stage play) that nevertheless exerts a kind of raw emotional tug on the viewer.
Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel (yes, you read that correctly) begin as college chums on a never-ending hunt for female tail, and end the film as stifled adults, still filling their lives with emotionally empty physical affairs that do nothing to fill the yawning void of their boring existences. Sound depressing? It is, but it's also rather fascinating, due to a sharp script and excellent acting.
This came out at a time when Jack Nicholson was actually playing characters in movies other than Jack Nicholson, and he does fine work here as the more virile and experienced of the two friends. Candice Bergen is also in fine form in a very dramatic role, a far cry from the comedic roles with which we've come to associate her. And Ann-Margret won a lot of acclaim (and the film's sole Oscar nomination) for her brief performance as the sex-pot basket case Bobbie, the target of Nicholson's emotional abuse.
"Carnal Knowledge" is entertaining as an intellectual exercise, but it may leave you cold on a deeper, more emotional level, as no one, not even the women, are especially likable or sympathetic. It came out at a time in our cultural history when "free love" was in vogue, and seemed to suggest that the price people payed for indulging that urge was high and that people turned to casual sex more as an excuse for avoiding significant human contact than as a way to more fully enjoy living. Certainly these emotionally stunted characters seem no better off for all of their care-free indulgence in pleasure.
In many ways, "Carnal Knowledge" seems to be the movie Mike Nichols' other 4-person relationship drama, "Closer," wanted to be, and he would have been wise to approach the material in "Closer" in a similar way as the material here. The staginess in "Carnal Knowledge" works. These people seem to exist in a plane of existence just a fraction removed from the one in which the rest of us live. It's like they live in a vacuum where they're the only people who matter, an airless atmosphere that serves as a fitting backdrop for their selfish behavior.
Probably not one of the more important films from this fertile period for film making, but worth checking out.
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