Foreign filmmakers have rarely had much luck in the US. And according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, it's actually become more difficult to see non-American films because most distributors have stopped showing them. Great movies such as Lars von Trier's Dogville screen quickly and disappear, drowned out by the babble of Hollywood. But one man has managed to penetrate the American consciousness - and he comes from Hong Kong. At a time when it's seemingly difficult for most US filmgoers to name a foreign director, Wong Kar-wai is the name on everyone's lips. That's not to say that movies such as 2046 and In the Mood for Love are giving Hollywood blockbusters a run for their money at the box office. They play in limited release at a few cinemas across the country. But for those who love cinema, Wong Kar-wai has become the name to drop at dinner parties, the way Jean-Luc Godard and Michelangelo Antonioni's names were in the early 1970s. This month, American film magazines Film Comment and Cineaste both ran Wong on their covers, the latter including a four- part analysis of his work. Rotten tomatoes.com, a website that collates the reviews of the nation's film critics, says reviews of 2046 were 86 per cent positive (War of The Worlds scored 72 per cent). Wong also appeared in New York to introduce a special presentation of 2046 at the Film Society of Lincoln Centre. One reason for his success in the US is clear - Wong makes good films. But so do European directors such as von Trier and other Asian directors such as the mainland's Jia Zhangke. Although Wong's work is top-notch, there seem to be additional factors at play in America's love affair with him. Cineaste co-editor Richard Porton, says it's because his films are more accessible than many other Asian movies. You don't have to know much about Hong Kong or the mainland to appreciate Wong's films. 'I think he's probably the most accessible of the major Asian directors working today,' Porton says. 'You don't need to know about history in the same way that you do with a Hou Hsiao-hsien film such as A City of Sadness. If you're not aware of the historical context, his films can get pretty confusing. But you don't really need a context to appreciate Wong's sumptuous images. He's a stylist, and people appreciate him on a cinematic level.' Hong Kong-born film buff Penny Chu agrees. 'Most of my friends here in America know him for In the Mood for Love,' she says. 'And you don't really need to know about Hong Kong people to understand that film. It's mainly a story about love, emotions and memory, and it could be set anywhere, so my friends had no difficulty relating to it.' Roger Garcia, a Hong Kong-born film producer based in California, says Wong's stories are a key factor in his appeal. 'Most people think of Chinese cinema in terms of martial arts costume pictures like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Seven Swords,' says Garcia. 'Although they're rooted in a Chinese environment, Wong Kar-wai's films have a wider reach. From the contemporary gay love of Happy Together to the discreetly chaste 1950s melodrama of In the Mood for Love, his films are tuned in to the currents of international art cinema.' Much of what's been written about Wong in the US revolves around the look of his films. The New York Times even devoted an article to Maggie Cheung Man-yuk's cheongsams from In the Mood for Love. Chu says Cheung's attire was certainly a talking point among her friends. 'People really liked the dresses,' she says. 'They're very sexy, but in a different way. Sexy in America means you have to show your skin and wear revealing clothes. But in Chinese culture, you can cover your body and look sexy. Americans never thought that conservative clothes could look like that.' The look of Wong's films clearly makes an impact. 'Many reviews I read of Wong Kar-wai's work play up the gorgeous and ravishing look of his movies,' says Garcia. 'But few really analyse their plot and story in any meaningful way. That's not Wong's fault - he does his work as a filmmaker and then has to take his chances with the audience. 'Wong's films are like well-printed art books - at first you pick them up because they look good. Then, you start to read them again and again. Then, they gradually deliver their secrets and meaning. That's what great cinema is about.'