I don’t have an outright favourite film, so I’ll just go with one (or two?) each for Japanese, Korean and Hong Kong. I think the two Nodame Cantabile films will probably count as my favourite Japanese films, haha, since they have Tamaki Hiroshi. I really love the music featured in the entire franchise, and everyone just stepped up a notch in the films, it was awesome to watch. I also really liked Kurosawa Akira’s Stray Dog (Nora Inu), which I think is very underrated since most people prefer his more famous works such as Seven Samurai and Rashomon. Stray Dog is a detective film, but pretty unusual in the way it plays out since it’s more character-driven than your usual cop films. Mifune Toshiro, a stalwart of Kurosawa films, played a detective who had his gun stolen by a pickpocket and teamed up with a more veteran colleague to hunt it down. Apparently, Stray Dog is considered a precursor to the police drama and suspense films we see now.
I am also very fond of Il Mare, which starred Lee Jung-jae and Jeon Ji-hyun. It was a beautiful and intricately crafted film, very thought-provoking and showcased some wonderful acting by Lee and Jeon (I admit, I shipped them for quite a while). Even though there were two different timelines and the actors rarely shared the same screen, one could still feel their chemistry just from their correspondence.
As for Hong Kong films… where do I start? I grew up with them and have enjoyed so many over the years, but it’s really difficult to pick a favourite. Perhaps I’ll go with these two from my childhood: the Aces Go Places spy spoof series and the original All’s Well Ends Well. I loved the original pairing of Karl Maka and Samuel Hui in Aces Go Places – the former was bumbling detective Albert, who spoke with a hilarious accent, while the latter was a master thief. Sylvia Chang was Albert’s hot-tempered wife and also their “supervisor” of sorts. The series was pretty mo lei tau and probably one of the earlier examples of the genre.
All’s Well Ends Well (the original was the 1992 version, which later spawned quite a few lame sequels) had all your usual Hong Kong stars who were by then starting to become household names: Stephen Chow, Leslie Cheung, Raymond Wong, Maggie Cheung etc. It was about three hapless brothers and their women troubles, with each brother eventually learning that love has to be gradually nurtured instead of taking it for granted. In Cantonese with all the wordplay, parodies and jokes, it was even funnier.
Writing about these films makes me want to watch them all over again!