Forget bars, and forget Tinder. For Jake (Svetozar Cvetkovic), the 54-year-old architect of You Go To My Head who lives alone in a remote property he designed on the Moroccan outskirts, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to meet women. So he seizes on happenstance.
On an expedition to collect ground samples for a future project, he spots, through his binoculars, a stylish speck in the sweltering enormity of the Sahara: a model-thin woman in a bright red dress, limping toward oblivion in the rippling heat.
This is “Kitty” (Delfine Bafort), whom we first see struggling out of an overturned car, her unnamed male companion unconscious amid the wreckage. It isn’t until Jake saves her life and seeks medical help that his Good Samaritanism yields to a baser desire. She is diagnosed with post-traumatic amnesia, the doctor says, presuming Jake is her husband. He lets that assumption slide, and proceeds to adopt that role.
He escorts Kitty — whom he names based on the Hello Kitty watch he discovers among her effects — to his modernist abode in the middle of the desert, an off-white structure with pillars aplenty, billowing curtains for doors, an infinity pool, and stairs that lead to nowhere. By the time Kitty is alert enough to communicate, Jake has concocted a backstory of their relationship, which Kitty, whose memories may never return, has little choice be to accept. For Jake, she is his latest blueprint, a blank parcel of land on which to build a life.
There’s a musty vintage to this premise, with its chance encounter, its manipulable amnesiac, its torrid milieu. Co-written and directed by Dimitri de Clercq, You Go To My Head harkens to the days of paperback potboilers and noirish B-features, and no matter how much de Clercq tries to ground the story in reality, it exists in a 1940s fantasia. It is not hard to picture Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman in these roles, which is neither a criticism nor endorsement, but it does feel shackled to an era when audiences, and movie heroines, didn’t ask so many questions.
To wit: For a story about a multinational working architect, there is a curious absence of phones or internet in this seemingly contemporary picture — devices that would surely assist the skeptical Kitty to discover that her new life is a fiction. When asked why Jake possesses no photos from their “six years” of marriage, she accepts his transparently lame response, that their belongings were destroyed in a fire.
There’s also no pushback to her inquiry about why they live in a largely unfurnished, Marie Kondoed skeleton of a home, whose spartan contents include a bed, a fridge, architectural magazines and freshly minted checks from a joint account, along with, for Kitty, some apparently ill-fitting clothes.
This movie doesn’t pass the smell test, and it doesn’t help that de Clercq’s pacing can border on the somnambulant, particularly in the sagging middle of You Go To My Head. It loses its initial tension and its drive, if not, thankfully, its poetry, which may be enough for art-house patrons. De Clercq’s visuals are invariably striking, and the house where much of the action takes place, designed by French architect Guilhem Eustache, really is a marvel.
Moreover, Bafort’s performance captures the ineffable sensation of living in a skin that doesn’t feel like your own, and of gazing at one’s reflection — there’s a lot this, in every window and mirror she happens upon — as one would a complete stranger. The score, with its moody shimmers of texture and industrial percussion, generates an eerie sense of John Cage-y unease that helps draw attention away from the script’s mounting implausibility.
And yet, despite all of de Clercq’s prominent visual doubling, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he has absorbed the surface techniques of Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman and Hitchcock but not the psychological depth undergirding them. He relies on facile narrative ironies over genuine insight, resulting in a conclusion that is likely to satisfy few. Like Jake’s home, You Go To My Head is visually stunning but hollow inside.
YOU GO TO MY HEAD. Director: Dimitri de Clercq; Cast: Delfine Bafort, Svetozar Cvetkovic, Abdel Jalil Zerououl; In French and English; Not Rated; Opens today, Lake Worth Playhouse