Versatile storyteller Llewellyn (How Green Was My Valley, last year's charmingly odd Tell Me Now, and Again) now tries a bit of ""faction""--based on the true exploits of the Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, who arrived in Paris early in the century to find backing for ""Demoiselles,"" his self-propelled aircraft. Such backing promptly comes from Llewellyn's fictional narrator, Robert Williams, an efficient and sensible English entrepreneur who has lived in Paris long enough to enjoy the ladies and the wine and the folly. Both French and German armed forces take to ""Santo"" like bees to honey, while unscrupulous suppliers, quickly realizing that Santo is in every sense a luftmensch, unbothered by matters like price and full delivery, see him as a mark. It takes Williams to shake Santo out of his visionary vacuum, to get him to see that his inventions are becoming seriously thought-of parts of other people's schemes. But what brings Santo to sad reality is the wish of Gioia and Andrea, his and Williams' respective fiancees, to fly the plane. This wish granted, Santo's vision is dashed in flame and misadventure--in a faintly misogynistic climax that seems to equate femininity with disaster. Llewellyn has a fine time with the fin-de-siâ‰¤cle luxuries, the budding technology, and the French: how-they-are-through-English-eyes. A bright little invention--a bit crass, forgettable, but lively.