Hotel Danubio is an enjoyably witty and self-consciously old-fashioned melodrama. Writer/director Antonio Giménez-Rico presents the material in a fairly deadpan manner, never resorting to camp, but the underlying sardonic humor shines through. Ostensibly a murder mystery and a film noir (complete with Carmen Morales as Ivón, the requisite femme fatale), the film is really a surprisingly sweet-natured ode to storytelling and the creative process. References to Hugo's (Santiago Ramos) failed novel abound, with the main criticisms being that it is not in a popular genre, and that the characters are not believable. At one point, his agent describes them as puppet-like. And Hotel Danubio could, amusingly, meet similar criticism. But its supreme irony is that Hugo's greatest creation is so convincing, he not only convinces others, but begins to believe in its reality himself. Hotel Danubio's main conceit is, in all honesty, fairly transparent, and this leads to a lull in the middle of the film as we wait for Ivón to piece together what we already know. But the film is well produced -- from its adroit performances to its superb production design -- and so clever that it still manages to surprise and entertain, even when we think we know what's coming.