Jonathan and Sandy are two best friends who don't seem to be able to talk about anything but their sex lives. Jonathan is an aggressive, womanizing type of man who is always looking for his next sexual conquest while Sandy is the mores sensitive type of guy. Spanning from their post-World War II college days at Amherst University through the 1970s, we follows these two men as they go from relationship to relationship. Michael Nichols' Carnal Knowledge is a film that sets out to expose the damage the pre-1960's sexual mores caused. The film explores the sexual hypocrisies of this time, and through these two men shows the trauma it causes for decades to come. Carnal Knowledge opens with a fantastic opening credit sequences that finds Jonathan and Sandy in conversation about love, lust, sex and woman. The screen is a simple blank, black screen with title cards, but the voice-over features some fantastic dialogue that really sets up the type of film the viewer is about to experience. This is a dialogue heavy film which fortunately also happens to be the strongest aspect of Carnal Knowledge. There is lots of great banter and ideas throughout the film with sharp, witty, and insightful dialogue a plenty. While the film certainly shines a light on male chauvinism and the sexual hypocrisies which exist, the film does come off rather cold. Perhaps this is completely intentional, but I never felt emotionally attached or invested in either Jonathan or Sandy as characters which I believe stems from them being a little too one-note. That being said, I was very much affected by the segment involving Jonathan and Bobbie, the woman who desperately wants to be loved and admired for more than her figure. Mike Nichols' aesthetic is rather simple yet effective but one thing I found interesting was the abundance of silhouette shots used throughout the film. For me, this heavy use of silhouette attempts to show that these characters are not at all unique but rather a faceless, common figure representing male chauvinism. Not surprisingly, Jack Nicholson is probably the stand out of the film, doing a fantastic job playing the womanizing, chauvinistic Jonathan, a man who desires absolutely no attachment outside of carnal impulses. Carnal Desires is a well-written dialogue driven film exploring the double standard of sexuality in our society and while it didn't resonant with me as much as it should, it's another strong example of the unique and inspired cinema coming out of the late 60's/early 70s.
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