Subtitles Make for Strange Kung Fu Experience

Long simmering tensions between China and formerly colonial powers, especially Imperial Japan, continue to influence trade, investment, and cultural relations, and also influence Chinese movies.

A 1994 Jet Li movie, Fist of Legend, is set in the Shanghai International Settlement.during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. A fight scene early in Fist of Legend, pits two fighters, one apparently friendly with the Japanese, the other not. 
Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 6.46.07 PM

The pro-Japanese guy gets thrashed, but viewers not understanding Cantonese (spoken in Hong Kong and nearby southern China) might be confused by the conversation that follows the fight.

I watched the movie on Netflix and by accident had both English dubbing and subtitles turned on. You’d think dubbing and subtitles would tell a similar story. Not here.

Comments after the fight are very different in subtitles than spoken English. (Cantonese speakers will know which is more accurate. And I’d be curious how Mandarin dubbing and subtitles are translated for this scene, and through the movie.)

In the screen captures below, readers can (barely) read the white subtitles.

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 10.33.02 AM The good guy (at left) in the subtitles, sort of apologizes for winning the fight:

My victory was pure luck.

You’ve come a long way. You must be very tired.

If we have the chance, next time how about I pay you a visit?

Very diplomatic, trying to ease tensions after the conflict. Maybe a nice metaphor for improving China/Japan economic and cultural relations after past conflicts.

Whoever managed the English dubbing though, didn’t get the memo. Those listening in English hear instead:

“Understand something, if you are looking for a fight at [martial arts academy]…

“…you are asking for trouble. You, or the Japanese.”



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