This essay studies the practice of cultural translation in colonial Taiwanese cinematic space. Just as the Japanese translation of Western cinema brings into play traces of Japanese otherness, the Taiwanese translation of the Japanese translation disrupts the Japanese monopoly on the meaning of cinematic experience in colonial Taiwan. A key figure in this complex cultural translation was the benshi, a translator who performed alongside the screen to interpret the film for the audience. This study argues that an overemphasis on the interventional power of the benshi's word does not do justice to the complex role of the benshi as a translator. In spite of its inscription of the cultural specific in the cinematic space, the presence of the benshi is also a reminder of an unfulfilled desire: the desire for the (foreign) image and the desire for the other. Insofar as the act of translation is a critical engagement with the challenges posed by the other, a simplistic celebration of local resistance does not help us fully address the complexity of cultural translation that defines the mediascape of the modern age.

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