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Roger Smith

The Reunion

The cast and director of "Carnal Knowledge" on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, from left: Candice Bergen, Art Garfunkel, Jack Nicholson, Ann-Margret and Mike Nichols.

Candice Bergen in profile, the Platonic ideal of a Smithie, as she wallflowers at a Truman-era college-mixer...

Jack Nicholson, King of the Amherst Make-Out Artists, to room-mate Art Garfunkel: "You feel her up yet?"...

Garfunkel, subsequently, to Bergen: "What are you going to do with your hands?"...

Mike Nichols jump-cutting to Nicholson, on the phone to his best friend's girl, after hearing what she did, in fact, with her hands...

Nicholson, a decade or so down the road, slamming the door on pill-popping, marriage-minded Ann-Margret: "I'm already taken - by me!"... Garfunkel, middle-aged in walrus mustache and Isro, the Platonic ideal of schnookdom...

There can be no argument: "Carnal Knowledge", the dark underbelly of the Playboy philosophy, is the wittiest, smartest, and most acutely entertaining product of masculine self-loathing ever minted. Maybe it's a little too rough on the boys, but where other relics of the Battle of the Sexes, early-70s division, have dated as helplessly as a well-thumbed paperback of "Any Woman Can", Mike Nichols's film still lacerates - a near-miraculous wedding of his mordantly precise direction, Jules Pfeiffer's stiletto-funny script, and a quartet of withering, revelatory performances.

For Bergen, Garfunkel and Ann-Margret, "Carnal Knowledge" was a breakthrough. For Nicholson, in the wake of "Easy Rider" and "Five Easy Pieces", another notch on the bedpost.

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