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  • American Swing
    • American Swing
    • Runtime:81 min
    • Release Date:2017-01-22 19:23:16
    • Director: Jon Hart
    • Genres: Documentary
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:American Swing


"American Swing" is not about Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson, or even
Derek Jeter. However, it is about another New York basher who had one
hell of a swing, but no baseballs needed here. He would be Larry
Levenson, the impresario of the famed New York heterosexual Swingers
club "Plato's Retreat". "American Swing" orgies its way dickimentary, I
mean documentary style, in its telling of Levenson's New York sexual
staple which ran from 1979-1985 and also on his obsession on being the
"King of Swing". Directors Jon Hart & Matthew Kaufman do a credible job
in presenting the zaniness of the Plato period by interviewing many
Plato players including: managers, patrons, employees, and even
celebrities that would take a swing at Plato from time to time. Their
Plato philosophies & storytelling is the rouser of "American Swing"! On
the negative swing of things, the doc also presents the downfall of
Levenson and "Plato's Retreat". "Plato's Retreat" will never be a
historic landmark but it laid (had to use "laid" sooner or later) the
foundation of the Swingers Heterosexual Sex Club Enterprise which,
whether you like it or not, have been erecting from year to year in our
country and are here to stay. It might not be for everyone in the
household, but I say "take a swing" at the entertaining documentary
"American Swing". **** Good


Anyone who ventures into "American Swing" expecting to see a
documentary on Benny Goodman is in for one hell of a rude awakening -
and that's putting it mildly. For the "swing," in this case, actually
refers to the "wife-swapping" phenomenon that swept through
middle-class suburbia in the 1970s. And no figure did more to
popularize that trend than Larry Levenson – the "King of Swing" as he
came to be called – whose "live sex club," Plato's Retreat, located in
Manhattan's Upper West Side, served as the epicenter for so much of the

Let it be stated right up front that this eye-opening documentary is
not for the prudish or the easily offended, for its footage is graphic
and its language raw, often akin in its look to crude 1970's porn. It
takes us straight into the heart of a scene that became famous for its
flagrant nudity, its unbridled group sex, and – if the eyewitness
accounts are to be believed – its really bad food (apparently, the
smorgasbord that kept bringing the people in was of quite a different
kind!). Directed by Matthew Kaufman and Jon Hart, the film features
interviews with many of the now-aging club regulars who happily regale
us with tales of their personal escapades there. A number of
celebrities who frequented the club, as well as certain reporters and
broadcasters who covered the beat at the time are also interviewed.

"American Swing" is most interesting as a social document, showing how
the "free love" ethos espoused by the hippies in the 1960's expanded
into the mainstream a decade later. Suddenly, ordinary businessmen and
housewives, truck drivers and longshoremen could partake in the life of
the sexually liberated. In his own mind, Levenson sincerely believed
that he was serving a salutary purpose with his club, providing couples
who didn't want to be stuck in a monogamous relationship with a more
honest alternative to "cheating."

It is not the intention of Kaufman and Hart to judge the people who
took part in what Plato's Retreat had to offer, but neither is it their
intention to shy away from some of the less savory consequences that
eventually overtook many of them: principally, the diminution of
romance, rampant drug abuse, and the spread of disease. In fact, it was
the sudden appearance of AIDS in the early 1980s that brought the
decade-long love-train to a screeching halt. That, along with
Levenson's own troubles with the IRS (including time spent in prison
for tax evasion) and possible dealings with the mob, is what eventually
brought an end to the place – and to the era of licentiousness that
helped to spawn it.

So, was Levenson a trailblazing sexual revolutionary who made it
possible for otherwise ordinary middle-class people to live out their
wildest fantasies? Or was he an emotionally stunted individual who cast
away the mores of society in a bid to fulfill his own kinky desires and
make a kingdom and a name for himself in the process? To their credit,
Kaufman and Hart provide no easy answer to those questions, neither for
the prigs in the audience nor for the libertines.

All same for the movie itself – for even though Levenson's life ends
sadly, "American Swing" does not play out like the typical cautionary
tale. For, in the end, we are left to reach our own conclusions as to
whether Plato's Retreat was in reality a hedonistic paradise or merely
a moral cesspool – or, indeed perhaps, a little of both.

The only thing you can really do is check out "American Swing" and make
that determination for yourself.

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