French animation house My Fantasy, a 2P2L Group subsidiary dedicated to new media animation, has unveiled its first feature project at Annecy’s MIFA pitch forum. Finalizing pre-production, the noirish thriller “Eugène” tells the real-life story of Eugene Falleni – a transman accused of murder in 1920s Sydney.
Etched in inky greyscale, the true-crime potboiler offers visual nods to classics of the genre like “Kiss Me Deadly,” “M,” and “Gilda” while painting the protagonist – an Italian immigrant to Australia whose story became sensationalized in the local press – with the nuance and compassion he was not afforded in his day.
Aiming for a 2023 wrap, the film will unfurl over two tempos, mixing a rotoscoped manhunt narrative — which finds Eugene on the lam after he is accused of murdering his wife – with a series of lyrical, hand-drawn dreams and flashbacks that evoke the lead’s anguished interior life.
For director Anaïs Caura, the film’s visual approach stems from its subject matter. “Eugene had been a sailor and had a huge alcohol problem,” she explains. “There is therefore a whole universe in relation to liquid, to the sea, which I grabbed on to. I said to myself, Australia, the 1920s, film noir — that means inks and blacks.”
“The fluidity of ink, interspersed with these watercolor fragments of memories, gives you a sense of liquid metamorphoses, in which the animation imparts this fluctuating, feverish and constantly changing state,” she continues.
The director, along with screenwriter Joëlle Oosterlinck, and producers Antoine Piwnik and Hélène Gendronneau, had previously tackled this story with 2017’s “The Man-Woman Case” – a short-form series for France Televisions that played to great acclaim in Annecy and across the festival circuit.
Caura calls this new film an “extension” of that prize-winning series, done with the hope to reach a wider audience. She notes: “This story resonates very clearly with what we’re seeing today, with questions of trans identity, tolerance, and the impact of a society on one’s personal life.”
“Society seeks to sculpt in its image individuals who cannot exist as such, who must then struggle to be themselves and to live as they wish. While the series allowed us to tackle these subjects, its short format meant we couldn’t examine them in depth,” she adds.
“[The series focused on Eugene,] but there is also a world around him – the policeman giving chase, the femme fatale he meets, his late wife – and they all have a point of view, a role to play. Because this is the story about a private matter becoming a public scandal, it is very much the story of how perspectives change.”