Sunday, August 24, 2014
CARNAL KNOWLEDGE (1971)
Directed By: Mike Nichols
Written By: Jules Pfeiffer
Cinematography By: Giuseppe Rotunno
Editor: Sam O’Steen
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Ann-Margaret, Candice Bergen, Rita Moreno, Carol Kane
Jonathan and Sandy are roommates in the university. Each one of them has a different behavior and experience with women: Jonathan is cynical, malicious, and selfish. He does not respect anybody (even his best friend is not respected) and just want to have sex. Women are objects for him. Sandy is almost the opposite of Jonathan and has a different approach with women: he is shy, sensitive and respectful; he does not have much experience with women. Sandy dates Susan but Jonathan gives a pass on her in the beginning of a triangle of love. A few years later, Susan is married with Sandy, and Jonathan and Sandy are successful in their professions and boring with their mates. Now, Jonathan has a relationship with the sexy Bobbie. As years goes by, the two friends have affairs with different women but no steady relationship.
This is more like a one capsule of a film. Showing the ideals and taboos that were going around at the time. It was made especially to challenge or at least put a spotlight to certain Intimacies happening at the time considering that the movie was thought to be controversial an groundbreaking. For it's frank depiction by showing and exposing the tie desires of men and the dark side of relationships and marriage.
Not necessarily tying it in a happily ever after package. That most movies at the time were serving up.
Watching it now , Though it might have been controversial in it's day over the years times have changed quite a bit. So watching this film now. It feels like it lacks a certain bite. That It packed back then. Because of this it is a great document as to the issues Of the times that you can put in context and appreciate how daring the film was. It comes off as tame now. Though something you still wouldn't show the kids.
The film is not only dark in subject matter, but also it's surroundings and the way the actors looked. They don't look polished. They look worn and beat-up. Like they have loved a full life.
Jack Nicholson's performance shocked me as he has rarely shown himself to be as vulnerable and not in control as in this film. It's not the Mr. Cool Jack we are used to, from later in his career and performances. Even now when getting familiar more with his early career this is a revelation. I haven't seen him run the gambit of emotions and be so open in a film.
I can believe Art Garfunkel as the more shy introverted role of his best friend and partner in crime.
It took awhile before I finally decided to watch the film. I know these films rarely love up to their reputations, but here I can understand it's place in the cinematic landscape.
It didn't love up to my expectations necessarily. I wouldn't call it a failure or bad film either. I can see why the film has earned it's reputation. It’s beautiful film-making and quite nice to look at. Even through it’s gritty glamour.
The characters admission of their wants, needs and desires is startling at first and graphic depictions of sex which you can nowadays get away with on film and television an still not cause the audience to bat an eye.
The admission of impotence and partner swapping are all revelatory. Not that they are played up, but just so calmly done.
The true lasting aspect of this movie is truly in it's title Carnal Knowledge.
I have never seen Ann-Margaret look so good and desirable in a film since THE CINCINATTI KID. She looks so good and voluptuous. Here she is a screen goddess. So beautiful and vibrant. That it's hard to believe when the other characters talk about how unattractive an unappealing she is later in the film. Plus she puts in a heartbreaking performance. Her character goes from feisty to vulnerable in seconds. That you barely notice the change. She is amazing in this film and what impressed me the most for the film. With this film and the previous credit mentioned. She truly showed she was no acting lightweight
Mike Nichols spent six months looking for the right girl to play Bobbie. He considered and rejected Jane Fonda, Karen Black, Raquel Welch, Natalie Wood and Dyan Cannon.
Ellen Burstyn auditioned for the role of Bobbi. After seeing the finished film, however, Burstyn admitted she could not have played the role as well as Ann-Margret did.
The fight scene between Nicholson and Ann-Margaret took a week to shoot, and at the end of it both performers had lost their voices.
Directed by Mike Nichols his direction is more reserved here than in his previous pictures. As he let's the actors do all the maneuvering. They are so captivating he barely has to move the camera at all to keep your attention and impress you with what is happening on screen.
The scene in which Sandy takes out a condom while in bed with Susan is the first time a condom was ever shown onscreen.
The film is more stagey, but still has a flow to it. While adding impressive and memorable visuals.
It is a revelation that Jules Pfeiffer. One of my favorite unsung screenwriters wrote the screenplay. Which is what actually have me the confidence to watch the film in the first place. In fact supposedly He originally pitched the concept to director Mike Nichols as a theatre project. After listening to Feiffer's ideas, Nichols said, "I see it as a movie."
It's a good film, not necessarily a classic in my mind, but worth watching and owning more film fans then the casual viewer. As I also believe there is more for a film fan to study and admire about the film.
The film is rich. It's nuanced and feels more like a cultures film. Dipping lnto reality a bit of titilating exploitation. That uses it to create a character piece that is haunting and affecting