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Carnal Knowledge

Carnal Knowledge (Mike Nichols, 1971)

This acidic social satire of what men really think about women was penned by cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and Jack Nicholson gets to play one of the all-time scumbags who makes the guys in In the Company of Men seem like Mother Teresa. At college during the 1940s, Jonathan (Nicholson) and his best friend Sandy (Art Garfunkel) constantly converse about what they want from women although neither is particularly experienced, or so Jonathan says. They both date and become infatuated with Susan (Candice Bergen), although Sandy's in love with her and Jonathan just wants to screw her. Thus sets the stage for following the men's lives throughout many women on up through the middle-to-late 1960s. Sandy honestly feels the need to have a full relationship with a woman, heart and soul, but all Jonathan seems to care about is their "T & A" and waiting for each relationship to fail so he can move on to the next doomed one, the most significant of which involves what seems to be Jonathan's "perfect woman" (Ann-Margret).

Carnal Knowledge unites director Mike Nichols with DP Giuseppe Rotunno, and as the film begins, it often plays out as a period inverse of The Graduate. Initially, the soundtrack is filled with the best dance music of the WWII era, and there is plenty of witty dialogue, camerawork and acting. As the film progresses, it gets far darker and reveals the full agenda of both showing how men put down women and how these filmmakers will try to castrate those who deserve it. Jonathan spends half of the movie talking about how every woman who loves him wants to bust his balls. It might not be a light evening of entertainment, but it's still powerful and, I dare say, entertaining.