ReFocus: The Films of Paul Morrissey

deadline for submissions: 
December 9, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
John A. Riley
contact email: 

Paul Morrissey is a key figure of American underground filmmaking. Early in his career he joined Andy Warhol’s Factory and worked on numerous projects, notably the ambitious Chelsea Girls (1966), a 210 minute-long split-screen experiment which became an unexpected crossover hit and raised the profile of New York underground filmmaking. 

After Warhol was shot in 1968, Morrissey took a more central role in the Factory’s filmmaking activities: he produced, directed and shot the loose trilogy Flesh (1968) Trash (1970) and Heat (1972). These further develop the hands-off filmmaking style that made him famous; straddling the porno chic era and underground filmmaking, and anticipating later movements such as Dogme95 and slow cinema. 

His subsequent films, including parodic reimaginings of Dracula, Frankenstein, and Sherlock Holmes, plus several films in the 1980s that took an often grim look at street life in New York, reveal a complex filmography that defies easy categorization. Lurching from experimental to horror to music hall comedy, his filmography proves thorny for auteurists. His vehement distancing of himself from Warhol’s influence is a point of controversy for film and art historians, while his staunchly conservative views contrast with the seemingly inclusive representations in his films, particularly his recurring use of the transgender performers Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, and Jackie Curtis.  

This proposed collection of critical essays, to be published in the ReFocus series on American directors, aims to revitalize interest in Morrissey’s work and to showcase the variety and significance of his controversial and unique films. Essays may focus on:


-       The contested authorship of Morrissey’s filmography

-       Morrissey’s portrayal of New York 

-       Morrissey’s place within the New York Underground

-       Parody, genre, and intertextuality 

-       LGBT+ representation

-       Morrissey’s stars, such as Joe Dallesandro, Holly Woodlawn, Sylvia Miles, Udo Kier etc

-       Performance and performativity

-       Morrissey and technology: 16mm, split-screen, 3D etc

-       Particular theoretical readings of Morrissey’s films; psychoanalytic, Foucauldian etc 

-       Morrissey’s influences, especially studio-era Hollywood 

-       Morrissey’s legacy and influence on contemporary film

-       Your suggested topic


Please send an abstract of 200-250 words, along with a short bio, to John A. Riley at by 9 December 2022.