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American Swing

American Swing (2009)

tomatometer

50

Average Rating: 5.2/10
Reviews Counted: 24
Fresh: 12 | Rotten: 12

While American Swing covers a fascinating subject, its amateur documentary treatment does it no favors.

50

Average Rating: 5.5/10
Critic Reviews: 10
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 5

While American Swing covers a fascinating subject, its amateur documentary treatment does it no favors.

audience

50

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 3,259

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My Rating

Movie Info

Filmmakers Mathew Kaufman and Jon Hart explore the last gasp of the sexual revolution with this profile of Plato's Retreat -- New York City's most notorious, 1970s-era sex club. The year was 1977: the city was in the suffocating grip of a heat wave, nerves were rattled due to the energy crisis, and the social unrest was growing. But when the sun went down over the city, the nightlife flourished. The discos were packed, cocaine was all the rage at Studio 54, and over at CBGB the punks were

Unrated,

Documentary

,

Apr 14, 2009

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All Critics (24) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (12) | Rotten (12) | DVD (1)

The film treats Levenson's rapid descent as if someone had turned on the lights at a sex party: scurrying away with pity and irritation that the good times had to end.

April 3, 2009 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

American Swing doesn't have a particularly well-defined point of view, but it is a succinct, entertaining and valuable record of a time that in some ways now seems as remote as the Roaring '20s.

March 27, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Post
New York Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In the end, the impression isn't that much different from one given by the club's own hairy habitues -- lots of sleazy charm, pounds of gold chains and a smarmy shallowness that goes very, very deep.

March 27, 2009 Full Review Source: Newark Star-Ledger
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Although American Swing pointedly goes out of its way to include positive testimonials from several women who patronized the club, it leaves you feeling queasy.

March 27, 2009
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Directors Jon Hart and Matthew Kaufman don't delve deeply enough into the psyche of club founder Larry Levenson or the culture he exploited. But they do present an entertaining snapshot of his brief reign as New York's self-appointed King of Swing.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Daily News
New York Daily News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

American Swing could use the flair of similar portraits of disco-era debauchery like Boogie Nights or Inside Deep Throat, but it's even-handed in capturing the operation's ambition and hubris. Just don't bring an appetite.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Certainly, the sex was exciting, as well as controversial. But Plato's Retreat also represented an effort to think through the mores behind monogamy, to challenge assumptions and imagine an alternative.

April 7, 2009 Full Review Source: PopMatters
PopMatters

A scary reminder of the potentially-disastrous physical and emotional consequences of indiscriminate mating.

April 6, 2009 Full Review Source: NewsBlaze
NewsBlaze

The pearls of wisdom are best extracted from the minds of those who stood on the front line, people who walked into the seminal fluid line of fire and lived to tell the tale.

April 6, 2009 Full Review Source: DVDTalk.com
DVDTalk.com

Can't get it up.

April 3, 2009
Buzzine Magazine

There's glossy surface engagement as an artifact snapshot of the sexual revolution, but everything about American Swing is only thumbnail-deep; it doesn't have, ahem, the rigorous thrust necessary to leave a lasting impression.

March 31, 2009 Full Review Source: Shared Darkness
Shared Darkness

A poorly-done documentary that manages to make the phenomenon of swinging boring.

March 31, 2009 Full Review
Spirituality and Practice

An essential document to the rich history of New York, "American Swing" is too short sighted for the vision of its controversial subject.

March 29, 2009 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

A lively and moderately engaging documentary, but its lack of thorough explorations leave you feeling slightly empty, underwhelmed and yearning for more insights.

March 27, 2009 Full Review Source: NYC Movie Guru
NYC Movie Guru

American Swing is an entertaining, oddly affectionate portrait of Plato's Retreat's Larry Levenson, and a brash, grainy, warts%u2013and-all Polaroid of an era of sexual history.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: TheDivaReview.com
TheDivaReview.com

Interesting and concise documentary about the positive and destructive effects of casual sex.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Dearest
Movie Dearest

Repetitive, narratively fractured, and padded with more hardcore inserts than hardcore facts, this amateurish documentary about the disco-era Manhattan sex club Plato's Retreat skimps on context and basic information. It's a fan site on celluloid.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

Audience Reviews for American Swing

This eye-opening documentary captures the mood of America when the sexual revolution pendulum has swung a little too far and slezy rot had started to set in. It looked like the 1970's porn in the live sex club, Plato's Retreat created by Larry Levenson - the "King of Swing". It is a roaringly entertaining but ultimately bittersweet look at the truly fascinating man.
August 11, 2009
deano
Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

One of the complaints over the years about documentaries is how very unsexy they usually are. To contradict that complaint, along comes "American Swing" which is about the rise and fall of Larry Levenson who owned the legendary swinger's club Plato's Retreat in New York City. While it is implied that he was just there to have sex with everything that moved, at least he was open about his desires without shame, even going on any number of talk shows including Phil Donahue. The documentary is liberally illustrated with explicit photographs and videos taken inside the club, which while interesting from a historical angle, do not improve on anything we could have imagined ourselves. Of the talking heads, there are adult entertainment veterans including Ron Jeremy, Dian Hanson and Annie Sprinkle but the movie makes no connection between the pornography industry and swinging. On a wider basis, the documentary partially successfully fits the club in a wider discussion of the sexual revolution, especially related to suburban couples, as Plato's Retreat allowed suburbanites from Long Island and New Jersey(definitely NOT my parents, by the way) to escape into anonymity where their neighbors would be unaware what they were up to(unless they were there, too). However, the film fails to mention the second club on 34th Street was just a short walk away from Penn Station. The most liberating part for the participants was sometimes not the sex but the acceptance of all body types. For women, it could be a mixed bag, either a continuation of patriarchal attitudes or a free exploration of their own desires. Like all parties, the one at Plato's Retreat had to end, too. Where once the worst that could happen would be a bad case of crabs, in the 80's it was AIDS and the end of an era.
March 30, 2010
Harlequin68
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Highly entertaining yet quite sad expose of the infamous hetero sex club in 70s/80s NYC. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of lush score against pornographic images, which added some emotional heft to the proceedings, and some of the interviews are highly entertaining. It's a wonderful time capsule of a time no so long ago where clearly waxing was not an option oft-explored. Really does make you want to pull a LOT of hairs out of a LOT of genital areas!
April 4, 2009
Glenn Gaylord

Super Reviewer

Nothing groundbreaking, but it was entertaining. Might've been better if it was focused on "swinging" in general rather than on one man.
August 26, 2009
trisarahtops22

Super Reviewer

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