Films: American Swing

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American Swing

American Swing

USA, 2008, 81 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Adult, Comedy, Documentary, Erotic, History
Program: Documentary Films
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Jon Hart, Mathew Kaufman
Producer: Gretchen McGowan, Christian Hoagland, (execuive) Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente
Editor: Keith Reamer
Cinematographer: Christian Hoagland
US Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

In the summer of 1977, New York City may have been terrified by the Son of Sam, subjected to blackouts in all five boroughs, and thrilled by Reggie Jackson’s World Series derring-do—but it was also buzzing about the self-proclaimed King of Swing, Larry Levenson.

American Swing chronicles the highs and lows of the sexual revolution in an age of grandiose narcissism. Led by Levenson, the once very small, secretive, and suburban swingers’ movement went public big-time at Plato’s Retreat: a midtown haven for sexual experimentation, fantasy fulfillment, and voyeurism, its devotees gyrated right along to the disco beats of the era—from the dance floor to the swimming pool, from private rooms for the “inhibitably inclined” to a buffet rated “tempting but dangerous” by legendary screenwriter and patron Buck Henry.

Directors Mathew Kaufman and Jon Hart brazenly delve into archival footage filled with hedonists boasting muttonchops, gold medallions, and all kinds of birthday suits; the smattering of celebrities, like Henry, among them; and, of course, the King of Swing himself in his rise and fall. Levenson’s downward spiral began as a judge challenged the nonprofit status of Plato’s Retreat and he was put on trial for tax evasion—and continued as Mayor Ed Koch began shutting down sex clubs and bathhouses in the shadow of the discovery of AIDS. The doors of Plato’s Retreat were finally shut on December 31, 1985, after numerous attempts on the part of the increasingly down-and-out Levenson to recreate the magic of its heyday.

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