September 7, 2016

Vista Point - SEOUL - South Korea: The Road Less Traveled

The travelogue is a form of armchair tourism, in which someone who's been there relates what's it's like to be there to someone who hasn't gone there and isn't likely to go. With pictures. This style of multimedia storytelling gained favor in the 19th century, back when people (with a new device called a camera) could actually go to places that no one had heard of or seen before and take pictures. But today, few places aren't near an airport. And if we're too lazy or too poor to go abroad, we can still see the world much more simply in a click. Sometimes we can even go online and explore locations in 3-D, choosing what doors to enter, what doors to pass. It seems a strange anachronism, this visiting of tourist traps via someone else's poorly produced video. And yet here we are — in Seoul, no less — with a mildly informed British narrator guiding us through a number of temples, a couple of museums, a shopping district, and the North Seoul Tower (the Asian counterpart to Seattle's Space Needle, perhaps). While our bought-in-bulk videographers try to spice things up by touting a pseudo-cooking performance art piece entitled NANTA, none of this journey feels exciting. Or even relevant. I don't know how to explain it except to say, watching Vista Point - SEOUL - Korea felt like someone had watered down NYC to St. Patrick's Cathedral, the 9/11 Memorial and Blue Man Group. Are any of those quintessential New York experiences? Well, if you think they are, stay at home.

Depresingly, there are Vista Point travel videos for over 100 cities — both stateside and international. From where comes this need? Are the people who watch them heavily medicated nursing home residents, dreaming of going places far beyond the institutional walls? Are they college students, stoned out of their minds and doing their best imitations of an English accent? Or are they travelers who don't want to experience a culture so much as take their pencils to a checklist? In all my years of reviewing Korean movies, I can definitely say, this was the least Korean thing I've ever seen.

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