This and That Blog

American Swing: gettin’ down and dirty

I went to Friday’s TIFF screening of American Swing because, let’s be honest, the topic of the sexual revolution in the States holds a certain amount of intrigue. Call me ...
September 8, 2008

I went to Friday’s TIFF screening of American Swing because, let’s be honest, the topic of the sexual revolution in the States holds a certain amount of intrigue. Call me naive (hey, I was only a toddler at the time), but I associate the ’70s swingers’ movement with that scene in Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam when Mira Sorvino and John Leguizamo take part in a coke-fueled orgy. Or the key party that takes place in The Ice Storm (one of my favorite feature films).

American Swing follows the launch and ultimate demise of Plato’s Retreat, a New York sex club that was closed down by the city in 1985. The film was a bit redundant (I’ve now seen enough grainy footage of naked frolicking bodies to last a lifetime), but it did give a good sense of what the swinging scene was all about. Plus, there were some memorable sound bites:

A woman with silver eye shadow and ’70s hair saying: “We have jobs. We pay mortgages. Just because we’re swingers, doesn’t mean we’re freaks of nature.”

Melvin Van Peebles, who frequented the club, saying: “Personally, I think with a little bit of encouragement, everybody’s on the wild side.”

Another club regular saying: “The jacuzzi was chemical warfare.”

Although some screen time was devoted to drugs and the impact of AIDS on the scene, the doc was more or less a lighthearted introduction to the birth of swinging in the US, complete with a disco-filled soundtrack. Did I want to douse myself in bleach after hearing about the crab-filled mattresses in the club? Yes. Still, I’m glad I saw what all the hype surrounding the scene was about.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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