Words still don't come easy on TV

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 October, 2010, 12:00am

'Fatty, you with your thick face have hurt my instep.'

This immortal subtitle is what the villain said to chubby Hong Kong film star, Sammo Hung, after he'd kicked him in the head in the 1989 martial arts movie, Pedicab Driver.

It may have lost a little in translation and with this mind I settled down to watch No Regrets, TVB Jade's new drama series which is using English subtitles for the first time.

It's very unfair to enjoy cheap gags at the expense of a few dodgy subtitles, but some were too good to ignore.

Set in the late 1930s in Guangzhou, No Regrets is an epic drama that centres around a triad family, which manages a successful opium production and trading business. In the course of this episode tempers flared and after a telling-off, a chastened character asked for forgiveness by announcing: 'You leave me baking at your feet.'

Exactly what he was going to bake was never revealed. Maybe a cake, or even a tart, to show he was really sorry.

The insults continued to fly among the family, and in one particular explosive exchange one character was called a 'country bumpkin' and a 'cannibalistic monster' in the space of 10 seconds. It hardly seemed fair.

It didn't help proceedings that soon after another character told his brother's wife: 'He was naughty while you were gone, he was drunk every night.'

Every male character was called 'brother'. This was then shortened at times to 'bro'. One example of this was when one actor said to another: 'Bro, you can't let him do it.' It was as if he was from Los Angeles or New Zealand.

All teasing aside, the subtitles were better than the average found in today's Chinese movies and you could definitely follow the plot.

Expatriates, however, would be better off learning Cantonese, as subtitles will only make them lazier than they already are in Hong Kong.