Right Here: Kriv Stenders’ cinematic love letter to The Go-Betweens
“When I hear you saying
That we stood no chance
I'll dive for your memory
We stood that chance”
― Robert Forster, ‘Dive For Your Memory’, 16 Lovers Lane (1988)
As the end credits roll on music documentary The Go-Betweens: Right Here, the bittersweet acoustic strains of ‘Dive For Your Memory’ begin, firing an arrow straight into your heart.
Written by The Go-Betweens co-founder Robert Forster, the song is a breathtaking elegy about the end of his relationship with Lindy Morrison, the band’s long-time drummer.
Here though, the song performs more as a collective lament, scoring the demise of a band – one of Australia’s most influential, yet most unsung – a life taken too soon – talented co-founder Grant McLennan died suddenly at 48 – and a series of significant creative and personal relationships spanning 30 years.
Together, these narratives coalesce into The Go-Betweens: Right Here, directed by prolific Australian filmmaker, Kriv Stenders
Influenced by the “Rashomon”-like biography of Edie Sedgwick, and eschewing the conventions of straight rock-docs, Stenders set out to make a piece of cinema that democratically and dramatically interwove the various viewpoints of The Go-Betweens and their extended music family.
The film was also a labour of love. Born and bred in Brisbane and a Go-Betweens fan from year zero, Stenders credits the Brisbane band for inspiring his artistic impulse.
“I went to high school in a suburb called Toowong,” he says. “Every afternoon I would walk home via a shopping arcade. In it was a record store called Toowong Music Centre. This was 1981, and I was 17 and already totally obsessed with cinema and music. The guy who owned the store, Damien Nelson, started to chat to me. We became friends.
Despite all the anger and bitterness, I can still see and feel love there. For what they had, and who they all were, together.Kriv Stenders
“Grant and Robert were also working at the store. One day Damien asked if I would shoot a short film that Grant had written. From that moment my life changed forever.
“I became friends with Grant and Robert and their circle of friends, and that’s when my own creative journey began. I was kind of like the kid in Almost Famous: instead of a pen, I had a camera.”
Unfolding in three acts, Right Here is a swoon of a film drenched in what Forster calls “high poetic intent”. It’s symphonic storytelling and as cinematic and cock-eyed as the greatest of Go-Betweens songs.
Gaining the trust of the surviving band members – some of whom were initially reticent – for their intimate, dream-like interviews, Stenders spirited them away to his sister’s house, an historic Queenslander near Mount Tamborine.
These are juxtaposed with archival footage, re-enactment, noir-esque cross-examinations of local and international contemporaries, and, as you’d expect, tons of music.
Importantly, Lindy Morrison says the documentary “tells the story of the women”, referring to herself and Go-Betweens multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown, former partner of McLennan.
“That’s been an untold story until now” she said in a Perth radio interview.
Often sidelined as ‘Yoko and Linda’ to the ‘Lennon and McCartney’ songwriting nucleus of Forster and McLennan, Stenders moves their roles – moreover their musical contribution - to the centre of the band’s story.
“If Lindy and Amanda didn’t agree to be in the film, there wasn’t going to be a film, he says. “Simple as that.”
“What did surprise me was, despite all the anger and bitterness [after the band’s acrimonious split in 1989], I can still see and feel love there. For what they had, and who they all were, together.”
As cathartic as the interviews might have been, it can’t have been easy for anyone. As the song implies, diving for a memory is harrowing. It takes courage, especially when a permanent record is being created. And when someone fundamental to the story (in this case McLennan) can’t be in the room.
Throughout, Forster seems haunted. Eloquent as always, he cuts a stark figure against the lush Queensland hinterland, grappling with the loss of his friend and collaborator, guitar on knee, his eyes at times boring through the screen.
“What happened?” he seems to implore, sitting, frozen, as if waiting for the arrival of an answer from beyond.
“You flew too near to the sun, and you were scorched”, the aging, tragic Leo tells his younger self in The Go-Between, the titular LP Hartley novel about remembering which inspired the band’s name.
Perhaps these words found their way to Forster, whispered on the wind, carried down from the mountain shimmering in the distance behind him.
The Go-Betweens: Right Here is in cinemas now.
With thanks to Kriv Stenders