I enjoyed the Lopate article and not just due to it’s length. But, I’m not convinced of his 5 characteristics for an essay. It’s the first one that bugs me the most — “An essay-film must have words, in the form of a text either spoken, subtitled or intertitled.” Perhaps it is just the graphic designer in me, but I think I disagree with the author here. As I read the article, several examples of what I might consider an essay-film — many of them are wordless and many of them would I think do just fine if the words were to be stripped from them. Several of Ray and Charles Eames short films have no words and I think an argument could be made that these are essay-esque — “Tops,” “Blacktop,” and “Day of the Dead” come to mind.
It doesn’t bother me at all that Lopate argues for a text. Indeed, he says of this characteristic that it is “the most questionable proposition.” What does bother me is that he then goes on to describe the other 4 characteristics and uses the word “text” as the foundation for each.