Born in Hong Kong in 1949 and named after his father's favourite actor John Wayne, Wayne Wang studied film and television at the College of Arts and Crafts in California and returned home to work, but found little interesting work to do on his home patch. He returned and settled in San Francisco where he got grants to produce, write and direct his first feature film Chan Is Missing (1982). This and Dim Sum: a little bit of heart (1984), which focus on the relationship between a Chinese mother and her American-born daughter, offer unique, wry looks at Chinese-Americans and their environment, and established Wang's reputation. His next film, Slamdance (1987), was an overstylized melodrama, but he returned to form with Eat a Bowl of Tea (1989), a comedy about newlyweds in 1949 Chinatown, and Life is Cheap... but Toilet Paper Is Expensive* (1990), a highly experimental, graphic film that was released with no rating because of objections to the gore content of some scenes.
Wang's later films include The Joy Luck Club (1993) based on Amy Tan's award-winning novel about the generational conflicts between four Chinese-American women and their mothers, a subject that Chan and Dim Sum had givern him experience in covering. He followed with the independent feature Smoke (1995), a study of Brooklyn, NYC, which is a series of wonderful, connected stories written by Paul Auster about a neighborhood cigar store, starring Harvey Keitel as the store's owner Auggie. Auster co-directed the companion piece Blue in the Face (1995) which also stars Keitel and has cameos from, amongst others, Jim Jarmusch and Madonna. It was pieced together in the two weeks after the shooting of Smoke. Both movies remind me a little of Short Cuts - Tom Waits on the soundtrack, stunning colour and cinematography, similar format.
More recent Wang films include Chinese Box (1997) which is the story of Hong Kong in 1997, when the changeover from British territory was happening. Despite starring Jeremy Irons (not one of my favourite actors) it's a beautifully shot and well-scripted movie that deserved more attention than it got. Anywhere but Here (1999) is another mother-daughter movie starring Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman, which was nominated for a Golden Globe. The Center of the World (2001) is a very, very bizarre movie(see wu there for details). A Hollywood romance called The Chambermaid is in pre-production at the time of this writeup, starring Jennifer Lopez, which sounds ominous. Hopefully it'll make him enough money to finance another independent movie.
*if anyone has seen this, please review!