American Swing…and sloth and filth

There is nothing redeeming about this film and there is no reason to go and see it or rent it or turn the channel to PBS when they will inevitably air it and market it as Americana.

It is a sort of fictitious tripe masquerading as a documentary of the pig sty that was once New York’s Plato’s Retreat.

The film relies on interviews with various former denizens of Plato’s Retreat sprinkled with television interviews of the former owner, Larry Levenson and laced with vintage photos and footage from the establishment.

I have to tell you, this team of directors have a rare and special talent. They manage to turn a story about sex into something that makes you want to go home, scrub tyourself down, put on many layers of clothing and engage your spouse in an all night discussion of St. Cyrius of Alexandria.

Granted, the subject matter is despicable and the protagonists have, as expected, the personalities of deflated tennis balls (with some determination their IQs might match said tennis balls), but don’t sell directors John Hart and Matthew Kauffman short.

They also manage to take a true story about how two bumbling bookkeepers on the run from the mob end up on a televised game show in Vegas and turn it into a snoozer. (I am betting that somewhere, somehow someone will see or hear that plot line and turn it onto a really funny movie.)

There is no mention in the film of the scars that Plato’s retreat indubitably left on its patrons’ already unstable psyche, and there is no metnion of STDs other than Aids. Those interviewed try to tell us, and mostly themselves, that they didn’t regret going to Plato’s and engaging in some of the most depraved behavior since Caligula. I don’t think that anyone in the theater believed them and the audience laughs out loud – really they do – at the absurd claims made by the former patrons.

I never had much interest in Plato’s retreat. Sure, I knew of it. What seventeen year old boy growing up in NYC at that time didn’t? And, as such, I can’t claim to be an expert on the subject matter. Among the many things that I didn’t know about it, but that the film made perfectly clear, is about the overall “Jewishness” of the place. One of the interviewees (I think it may have been Al Goldstein, the despicable worm who edited “Screw Magazine”), had the one line in the movie that was inteneded to be funny and actually was. Describing the paper thin walls of Plato’s retreat he mentions that among the oft overheard conversations were those of girls looking for car poolrides to the next day’s Hebrew School.

Larry Levenson thought that he was the vanguard of the future sexual behavior in this country. Thank God he was wrong. He passed away at 62 years old, alone and impoverished. Plato’s Retreat closed in 1985, but it reopened in Florida and operated there until 2006.

Again the film is a ridiculous exercise that has no merit whatsoever.


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