American Swing

August 1st, 2009 DVD Reviews, Empire, Film

Taking strong tonal cues from the 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat, American Swing captures the mood of America when the sexual revolution pendulum had swung a little too far and the inevitable sleazy rot had started to set in.

It tells the story of notorious New York swingers nightclub Plato’s Retreat, run and managed by self-styled swing king Larry Levensen and patronised by all walks of life. In an era when many considered New York a den of filth and iniquity Levensen and his cronies attained brief legendary status, and one of the funniest aspects is watching the personalities from the time — many of them kvetching Brooklyn Jewish retirees — talk about such wild days.

The highlight is the reminiscences of a then-young female photographer who frequented Plato’s and provides the unwitting moral of the story when she describes how she got pubic lice just from sitting down in the mattress-strewn ‘sex room’.

Like many tales from the era of America’s sexual awakening (such as that of the Studio 54 discotheque), it couldn’t last. Levensen’s ‘girlfriend’ ended up institutionalised, the terror of AIDS closed the club down and Levensen ended up a fat, broke old man driving a taxi.


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