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Carnal Knowledge Reviews

Deeply felt critique of middle-class sexual politics, and one of the better films of formerly interesting director Mike Nichols. Jules Feiffer's script is an uneasy, confessional work rooted in the regret and confusion experienced by his generation of Americans--men who reached middle age at a time when the rules governing male-female relationships were undergoing radical change. The film follows college roommates (Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel) from youth through embittered middle age. Nicholson is a manipulative misogynist, apparently incapable of emotional intimacy; Garfunkel is his less confident, more sensitive chum. In the opening segment, set in the 1940s, the two compete for the affections of bewildered coed Candice Bergen. Ten years later, Garfunkel is a bored suburban husband; Nicholson is wrangling with his mistress (Ann-Margret), who senses his contempt for her but still dreams of domesticity. The final segment shows the aging friends, now accompanied by Moreno and Kane (in her debut), attempting to cope with the unfamiliar values of the late 1960s. Nicholson's performance here did much to consolidate his stardom, while Ann-Margret, previously wasted as a campy sex kitten, used a meaty role to establish herself as a serious actress. An uneven but unusually thoughtful melodrama, CARNAL KNOWLEDGE avoids most of the the trendy excesses that make some other films of its era so difficult to watch today.