Mike Nichols, who’d made one of the most emblematic movies of the 60s with The Graduate, turned edgy and courted controversy – in sync with the 70s – with Carnal Knowledge. Bordering between psychological explorations, satirical take on male libido and ribald exposé on taboo topics as made amply clear by the film’s sensationalist title, it focused on the rather politically incorrect themes of sexual objectification and dysfunction. Hence, admittedly, it was topical, bold in its choice of subject, and reflective of zeitgeist; however, for the same reasons, it was also alienating, discomfiting and undeniably problematic too, for the brazen display of sexism, male gaze and misogyny. The film follows, over the course of over two decades, the troubling journey of self-discovery of two friends – the self-centered, sex-crazed, narcissistic, aggressive, volatile Jonathan (Jack Nicholson), and the sensitive, soft-spoken, passive, ever-curious Sandy (Art Garfunkel). It begins with them as students and roommates at Amherst College, with both falling in love with the same lady – the smashing and confident Susan (Candice Bergen). While Sandy adores and worships her, and eventually marries her too, Jonathan gets infatuated and obsessed with her, more so upon seeing how his shy friend is smitten by her. As they move ahead, they keep both diverging and converging at various points over the years. While Sandy and Susan eventually get divorced, Jonathan, in-line with his serial womanizing, heads into a steamy relationship with Bobby (Ann-Margret), even though it gradually turns into something he never wanted. Nicholson was impressive as always, and his manic outburst near the end was both electrifying and disturbing; Garfunkel, one half of the unforgettable folk-rock duo with Paul Simon, was surprisingly effective too.
Director: Mike Nichols
Genre: Comedy Drama/Social Satire