Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Puff of `Smoke' `Joy Luck Club' Director Wayne Wang Changes Focus

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Puff of `Smoke' `Joy Luck Club' Director Wayne Wang Changes Focus

Article excerpt

After the glowing success of "The Joy Luck Club," director Wayne Wang changed his focus. His latest effort, "Smoke," takes place in a little Brooklyn cigar store and tells the intersecting stories of five fascinating characters.

"I'd been wanting to take a break from Asian-American material for a while," says Wang, whose notable independent films include "Chan is Missing" and "Dim Sum." "I'd been itching to do something just American, so to speak."

Wang had been captivated by "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story," a short story that appeared in the New York Times. His wife was familiar with the work of the author, Paul Auster, and Wang tracked him down and explained that he would like to expand the piece into a feature film. The two worked on a screenplay over the next three and a half years.

"It was `The Joy Luck Club' that really gave me the freedom to make a film like `Smoke,' " Wang says. "We had taken the script around before and it didn't get anywhere."

The film relies on heart and intelligence, not high concept. Wang, a non-smoker who had no first-hand knowledge of Brooklyn until Auster took him on a tour, was intrigued by the underlying themes of the piece.

"In human relationships," Wang said, "there are a lot of layers between people, almost like layers of smoke. You don't immediately see exactly what people are doing or saying. You have to break through that little layer of smoke, which has usually been placed there unintentionally, but sometimes intentionally.

"When people dig down a little deeper, beyond the smoke screen, they connect in some way. That's basically what this movie is about."

Though the surroundings and rituals of these smokers are worlds away from the characters in "The Joy Luck Club," Wang sees some similarities in the projects.

"In a way, `Smoke' is a mirror piece to `Joy Luck Club,' which was about mothers and daughters. This is about fathers and sons, about men, about family, except none of them are really blood family. Somewhat disassociated from their families and society, they all come together. It's about their love for each other, the misunderstandings, the ironies involved. …

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