CINEMA BABEL: Translating Global Cinema, by Abe Mark Nornes. Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2008, 304 pp.,$22.50 (paper)

Though foreign film is now seen by all, we are still dependent on translation to discover what is going on up on the big screen or on the little tube. This translation of dialogue can be either graphic text (subtitling) or substituted speech (dubbing).

In either case it is because the translation that the viewer must penetrate can be so confusing that the author of this highly original and always interesting book can claim that translated foreign cinema is the new Tower of Babel.

His book seeks "to recognize what happens when [films] cross linguistic frontiers and require . . . bilingual interlopers." To demonstrate this, he fills us in on the significance of translation within film culture (the collapse of the Kurosawa-intended "Tora, Tora, Tora," a victim of, among other things, mistranslation), shows us a more successful try (Hitchcock-Truffaut interviews), goes into the pre-dubbing world of the film commentator, with lots on the Japanese version (benshi), then turns his attention to subbing and dubbing perils.