Opening at South Beach Cinemas, 1100 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; 305-674-6766.
Writer-director-star Daphna Kastner seems to have designed her second feature, Spanish Fly, primarily to make out with as many attractive Spanish men as she can. Male actor-directors do this sort of thing all the time, usually with a lot less flair. Perhaps it's the female touch, but Kastner has a better feel for creating an erotic atmosphere than most aspiring male auteurs and keeps this story of an American girl in Madrid trying to analyze the Spanish concept of machismo compelling. Kastner's script is effectively evenhanded; she's willing to make her own character appear at times to be every bit as irrational as the oversexed Latin horn-dogs who surround her. The only slight flaw in the writing is that it too often ignores the "comedy" inherent in this self-described romantic comedy, so much so that the second half of the film turns into tragic drama. The Opposite of Sex's Martin Donovan appears to good effect as an intellectual would-be antidote to the macho men, mouthing feminist platitudes as a seduction technique, and German character actress Marianne Sägebrecht gets a brief walk-on as the owner of a rundown, middle-of-nowhere inn (a knowing reference to her performance in Bagdad Cafe). Kastner has admitted to having no formal training as a director, yet this may be one of her greatest strengths; she steers away from pretension and toward an efficient camera style that, for the most part, is in service to the actors. The editing is another issue: There are too many freeze-frames and more unnecessary triple-takes than in a Jean-Claude Van Damme kickboxing movie. But Crude title aside, Spanish Fly is ultimately romantic at heart and proves that indie films can occasionally be good date movies without the aid of British accents and corsets.