The XXX Playpens of American Swing

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American Swing
Directed by Matthew Kaufman and Jon Hart
Magnolia Pictures
Opens March 27, Quad Cinema

A het-humping parallel to 2005's Gay Sex in the 70s, Matthew Kaufman and Jon Hart's doc on Larry Levenson's raunchy hideaway, Plato's Retreat, unwittingly reminds us that homos were getting it on to much better music back then. Levenson, a genial, schlubby horndog from Long Island (like several of his establishment's habitués), operated the XXX playpen from 1977 to 1985, first in the basement of the Ansonia and then at a warehouse on 34th Street and Tenth Avenue. Talking heads (sexperts, journalists, patrons, Plato's staff, Ed Koch) recall, with varying degrees of fondness, the bar-mitzvah-like atmosphere, the $25 all-you-can-eat buffet, and the Mattress Room, where people "writhed together like a bucket of worms." As Al Goldstein succinctly puts it, "Larry was boring; his whole world was genitalia. He never read a book." Likewise, American Swing never really gets it up, rarely mentioning what was happening in either New York City or the culture at large in the '70s and '80s. Though sweetly reminding us that some outer-borough suburbanites did find liberation at Plato's, the film tries—and fails—to swing both ways, nostalgically glorifying its subject only to smugly revel in Levenson's ignominious demise.

 
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