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Carnal Knowledge (1971)

The concurrent sexual lives of best friends Jonathan and Sandy are presented, those lives which are affected by the sexual mores of the time and their own temperament, especially in ... See full summary »




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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Sandy (as Arthur Garfunkel)
Cynthia O'Neal ...


The concurrent sexual lives of best friends Jonathan and Sandy are presented, those lives which are affected by the sexual mores of the time and their own temperament, especially in relation to the respective women who end up in their lives. Their story begins in the late 1940s when they are roommates attending Amherst College together. Both virgins, they discuss the type of woman they would each like to end up with. Sandy, the more sensitive of the two, meets Susan at a mixer, she who he believes is going to be the one to who he will lose his virginity. Sandy goes through the process methodically, taking into account what he thinks Susan wants, but without much true passion or romance. Jonathan, the more sexually aggressive of the two, ends up losing his virginity first to "Myrtle", who ends up being a steady but hidden girlfriend. Based on what each knows of the other's relationship, both Jonathan and Sandy strive for a little more of what the other has. These relationships also set... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

21 October 1971 (Argentina)  »

Also Known As:

Conocimiento carnal  »

Box Office


$28,623,900 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Feiffer also reports that Nichols told him he didn't think he could shoot the Jonathan/Bobbie fight scene. It was too ugly and repellent for an audience to stomach, and the director was afraid viewers would recoil from the Jonathan character and never get back into the movie. Terrified because it was "perhaps my favorite piece of writing in the movie," and "I believed it to be essential," Feiffer also knew better than to try to defend it, and only Nichols could convince himself. After talking through it over for most of the evening, Nichols finally said, "No, I guess we have to shoot it ... because that's what would happen." Only then did Feiffer realized how shaken he had been about the possibility of the scene getting cut. See more »


[first lines]
Jonathan: If you had a choice...
Sandy: Yeah?
Jonathan: Would you rather love a girl, or have her love you?
Sandy: I want it mutual.
Jonathan: I mean if you couldn't have it mutual.
Sandy: You mean would I rather be the one who loves, or is loved?
Jonathan: Yeah.
Sandy: It's not that easy a question. But, I think I'd rather be in love.
Jonathan: Me too.
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Referenced in Charlie Rose: Quentin Tarantino (1994) See more »


A String of Pearls
Written by Jerry Gray and Edgar De Lange
Performed by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
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User Reviews

A pure masterpiece.
8 March 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Just like Nichols' later masterpiece Closer, Carnal Knowledge expertly deals with romances falling apart, coming back together and the study of lust and it's many complications. And just like Closer the dialogue and relationships in the film feel more authentic than virtually anything else I've ever seen. All of the arguments and especially the conversations between Jonathan and Sandy felt so natural, humorous and somewhat depressing. It evoked all of the emotions that lust in life does and perfectly demonstrates how rare true love and happiness is. The performances were all incredible and Ann-Margret more than deserved her nomination (the win in my opinion) but Jack Nicholson really shines above the rest of the cast. His realism, intensity and humor was top-notch to say the least. He also displays this internal pain that I can't even describe, but stunned me to my core. I felt like I could really relate to the character and that made his actions even more devastating to me.

11 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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