Written by / 10/09/2012 / No comments / , ,

NICHOLSON & GARFUNKEL IN CARNAL KNOWLEDGE

Wide Poster Art of Jack Nicholson & Ann-Margret YEAR: 1971
If you can get past Jack Nicholson as a virginal college freshman (as easy to buy as Jane Fonda having no clue about the Vietnam war at the onset of COMING HOME) after having asserted himself a man of the world in previous films, you’ll do alright... Here’s a movie that sets itself up as a latent coming of age tale but quickly changes decades and storylines and, most important, sexual relationships: Beginning with University boys Jack and his best friend Sandy – played with a natural screen presence by Art Garfunkel – both dating the same Ivy League girl, Candace Bergen… Jack having moved in carnally without Art’s knowledge… We get to know the characters through interesting direction and narrative-style dialog used in conversation between the two pals, both learning the ins and outs of sex during the 1950’s.

CarnalScore: ***1/2
Enter the '60s where the mood changes to a tensely contained art film: combative Jack shacks up with voluptuous, lazy Ann-Margret. Some great Nicholson rants here – but where’s Garfunkel? Since the first story centered on both characters playing off each other's contrary personalities, his sporadic screen time makes Jack a one-dimensional grump sans the wily charm – though witnessing his FIVE EASY PIECES style tantrums are fun nonetheless... although Karen Black had it easy compared to poor Ann.

Hello Jack my old friend, it's good to...
One of the best scenes involves Jack attempting a swap with one of Art’s girlfriends, played by Cynthia O'Neal, a feminist who hardly melts to his devilish swagger and who quietly hisses to Art's meek character, paraphrasing, "If you sleep with that tub of lard, we're through." This teetering on the last act that reintroduces the two college friends as full-blown adults: Jack’s gone overboard with machismo while Art’s found contentment in a young intellectual. Perhaps if it didn’t play around with time changes so quickly, we’d get to know both guys better for a more complete story. What’s left works well enough, since director Mike Nichols obviously intended that this esthetically pleasing melodrama center more on the film’s title than the characters therein: but it takes two to really tango.
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