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
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.

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