This is the story of Didier and Bruno. One is a rebellious and mocking, the other is already hiding to blacken the pages of his notebooks. These two young people who meet in a place in the shade of the low-rent housing of Seine-Saint-Denis, are the members of the Supreme NTM group, which will as much explode the discmans of a whole generation as make the headlines. And if there is a success in this film, it is the two actors who embody the stage animals.
If the performance of Théo Christine offers a more sensitive facet than the JoeyStarr we know, Sandor Funtek completely abandons himself in that of Kool Shen. There is “Authentik” radicalism in these two actors. Impossible not to think of the naturalism of the two Beautiful Kids by Riad Sattouf. And the performance is even stronger when you realize that these young JoeyStarr and Kool Shen are really rapping and dancing on stage. The scenographic reconstruction is really stunning. The influence of NWA: Straight outta Compton is here. Without any bluster or narrative sleight of hand, Audrey Estrougo takes us back to this France from the very beginning of the 1990s, without a cell phone, without the internet and where the state of emergency that NTM sang is palpable.
One can wonder about the needs to make a biopic of a group which, of course, struggled but which quickly established itself as the precursor of rap in France alongside IAM and Assassin (of which we see d ‘elsewhere members briefly in the film). It is a story that starts metaphorically from below, since it begins in the corridors of the vandalized metro in joy, and only goes upwards. The only obstacle in this relentless ascent is that, before becoming the kings of the stage, they are denied everything. This is undoubtedly the object of Audrey Estrougo’s project: to talk about young people to whom all doors are closed.
The drama around the character of JoeyStarr is also what drives the film. Literally captive of a violent father who humiliates him, he only later discovers the lie that has surrounded his life. That of a mother whom he believed dead and who appears to him one fine day just before he goes on stage. This trauma is the keystone of the story which is also the subject of the last autobiography. The story of a kid invisible to his father and who soon ends up snorting to forget that he has been forgotten. There is less drama around Kool Shen –Supreme makes perfectly feel that he is the cornerstone without which everything collapses, forever the author of “Verbal sodomy”.
“Don’t let your film drag on”
The limits of Supreme undoubtedly lie in the omnipresence of JoeyStarr and Kool Shen, credited more than insistently during the promotion and in the end credits as consultants to the scenario. In fact, the story fits perfectly with the almost official story, told by the group for more than ten years, whether in interview or, precisely, in the autobiographical work of Joey. The only “YOLO” that we could see there is the arrangement of certain events, certain interviews given which do not seem to belong in the chronology. But maybe this is just a subjective impression, the rappers having still given dozens of explosive interviews on TV. They are an integral part of our culture at the time and that is also what the film sanctifies.
The fact remains that it is indeed their version of the story that we know. We therefore find the different protagonists who revolve around the duo. True to his legend, producer Sébastien Farran is described as a haughty visionary, the result of a highly bourgeois upbringing and a desire to slam. Around the two rappers revolve a whole band, names well known for who follow NTM since its beginnings as DJ S or Lady V. If there is a part of criticism formulated by the two accomplices, it is there: that of having started as an organized band of 20, 30 or even 40 members, ready to “Fuck everything”. Then, over the course of the needs, the concerts and the contracts with the record companies, they realize that, in order to rap, you will have to put some limits.
Supreme is not really a suburban movie, but structurally, is quite close to a manga or a shônen anime. They are two almost antagonistic characters but who ultimately make friends, helped by a bunch of friends, assisted by mentors, here benevolent producers. The two heroes will gradually gain strength until the big final tournament, here the ultimate concert at the time of the Zenith in Paris.
They will encounter pitfalls but always triumph thanks to music and the power of friendship. The only difference is that there is no real rival on the screen. No IAM, nothing. Not even the police, yet widely denounced in their albums. It hardly ever appears. They will win almost without danger. It’s not very “What are we waiting for to set the fire” as a spirit. While fans know it very well, “Everything is not so easy, everything hangs by a thread”.