American Swing (2009)

American Swing



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

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 … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Documentary
Directed By: , ,
Written By: Matthew Kaufman, Jon Hart
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 14, 2009

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Critic Reviews for American Swing

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (9)

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.

Full Review… | April 3, 2009
Los Angeles Times
Top 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.

Full Review… | March 27, 2009
New York Post
Top 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.

Full Review… | March 27, 2009
Newark Star-Ledger
Top 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

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.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
New York Daily News
Top 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.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
AV Club
Top Critic

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.

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.

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!

Glenn Gaylord
Glenn Gaylord

Super Reviewer

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