‘Carnal Knowledge’ at the Riviera

By Christopher Matteo Connor   |   October 11, 2022

Who has Doc Brown’s number? He lives around here, right? We could use his DeLorean right about now, ‘cause we’re taking a ride back to the ‘70s!

This week at the Riviera is a 4K Restoration of Mike Nichols’ 1971 film, Carnal Knowledge starring Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Candice Bergen, and Ann-Margret. Really, how could we not give precious page space to ‘70s Jack Nicholson, a decade which saw some of his most iconic and career-defining works. We’re talking Chinatown, Antonioni’s The Passenger, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The Shining. Okay, The Shining came out in 1980, but it was filmed in the late ‘70s, so for the sake of the spooky season, we’re including it! Not to mention Carnal Knowledge might have tipped off Kubrick that Nicholson had a predisposition to play insane, mean characters.

Carnal Knowledge opens with the classic “Moonlight Serenade,” priming us for what we can only expect is a romantic comedy. We hear two men waxing poetic about the type of women they’d love to know, and importantly for them, shack up with. It’s a balance between sensitive and the typical crude remarks you might expect from some college kids. It’s immature. There’s a mixture of arrogance and insecurity. But doesn’t arrogance so often stem from insecurity? Well-adjusted people grow out of it. Key words: “well” and “adjusted.”

As the years go on, it becomes clear that Nicholson and Garfunkel’s characters are unable to connect with women in any meaningful way. They refuse to see them as complex people with their own wants, desires, and needs. Their once juvenile charm quickly reveals itself for what it is: chauvinism and misogyny. The rug is pulled out from under us, and what was a harmless romantic comedy turns into a character study of miserable, chronically dissatisfied men who refuse to take accountability for themselves.

“You give off such bad vibrations,” Art tells Jack. Which is a polite way to say, “Jack, you’re a terrible jerk.” Hey Art, you’re no peach either.

This film had toxic masculinity’s number decades before the phrase hit the cultural lexicon, and it’s hard not to make the connection between Nicholson’s Jonathan, and men who make social networking apps to rate women. We’ve come so far, and yet…

To add insult to injury, there’s a cameo by Carol Kane and she doesn’t utter a word. A real travesty in my book! But I digress…

So, whether you’ve already seen the flick, want to see it for the first time on the big screen, or simply need a break from bingeing monster movies, now’s your chance! But be forewarned, watching unchecked male ego run rampant is a horror in and of itself…

Carnal Knowledge is playing at the Riviera October 14 – 20.

Christopher Matteo Connor is a writer and filmmaker. When he isn’t writing, watching movies, and working on projects, you can be sure he’s somewhere enjoying a big slice of vegan pizza.


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