This Tuesday’s film: Carnal Knowledge (1971)

Carnal Knowledge poster

This Tuesday’s entry in the biweekly VCS film series is Carnal Knowledge (1971), directed by Mike Nichols and starring Jack Nicholson, Candice Bergen, Art Garfunkel, and Ann-Margret. The screening will take place at 6:30 pm in room 101C. Here’s a synopsis by Lucia Bozzola from Rotten Tomatoes:

“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.

The following pages contain more information about Carnal Knowledge:

Carnal Knowledge by Bruce Eder, an essay from the Criterion Collection laserdisc release of the film

Howard Jacobson Chooses Carnal Knowledge directed by Mike Nichols (Stage and Screen Choices, Front Row, BBC Radio 4) – audio; the page also includes a short clip from 1982 in which Jack Nicholson talks about the film.

Jason Reitman and Mike Nichols discuss “Carnal Knowledge” by Daniel Loria (Film Society of Lincoln Center, June 16, 2011). For another review of this talk, read this piece by Cory Everett at The Playlist on Indiewire.

Visual & Critical Studies