AZUSA, CA–In a discovery prompting exasperated forehead-slapping and stunned expressions of incredulity, Mark Tillich learned Monday that girlfriend Brandi Jensen has never even seen Apocalypse Now.
"You gotta be kiddin' me, Bran!" said Tillich, 21, a senior marketing major at Azusa Pacific University, upon discovering Jensen's ignorance of the 1979 Francis Ford Coppola-directed Vietnam War epic. "It's only, like, arguably the most ambitious anti-war statement in American movie history. Jesus!"
"I cannot believe you've never seen Apocalypse Now," he added. "That's insane."
Tillich, who first saw the critically acclaimed film on HBO at age 14 while sleeping over at a friend's house, was particularly distressed by the fact that Jensen had not only never seen the film, but was wholly unfamiliar with its basic premise.
"Hello? Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness updated from 19th-century British imperialism in the Congo to a critique of 20th-century U.S. imperialism in Southeast Asia? Hello? Any of this ringing a bell?" Tillich said. "Come on, that's like saying you've never seen Full Metal Jacket."
When Jensen replied that she hadn't even heard of Full Metal Jacket, Tillich threw up his hands in an "I give up" gesture and stormed out of the room.
"It's not like I don't like movies," Jensen said. "I loved Notting Hill, and I'm totally psyched to see Hanging Up–I'm the biggest Meg Ryan fan. I even used to have a When Harry Met Sally poster in my dorm room. And have you seen My Best Friend's Wedding? Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz are so amazing in it. My all-time favorite, though, has got to be Beaches."
Tillich, however, is unimpressed. "He called my movies overwrought, weepy chick dramas lacking in any genuine visceral impact,'" Jensen said. "Well, excuse me for living, Mr. Big Army Guns."
Tillich responded to his girlfriend's shocking Apocalypse Now revelation by making plans for her to see it that night, claiming that "to deny [her] the pleasure [she] would experience in viewing such a cinematic masterpiece for even one more second would be a crime."
Though Jensen declined, telling him she had to study for a test, Tillich persisted, trying to convey to her "the urgency of rectifying this situation as soon as possible."
"After class yesterday, I was hanging out with them, and he wouldn't shut up about it," said Melissa Ayler, Jensen's best friend. "He was like, 'But it's got Robert Duvall's classic turn as the surfing-obsessed helicopter squad leader!' Then he started quoting all these lines from it, saying stuff like, 'Charlie don't surf,' and 'I love the smell of A-bombs in the morning.' At least, I think that's what he said–I've never seen the stupid movie, either."
Tillich housemate Howie Fuller said that while eating dinner with the couple and several of Jensen's friends, Tillich described in detail the film's climactic scene, in which villagers hack an ox to pieces as The Doors' "The End" plays.
"She was like, 'What's so appealing about an ox getting violently slaughtered? It really doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy, Mark.' And all the girls at the table were like, 'Yeah, that's gross,'" Fuller said. "But that just made him lose it even worse. He started screaming, 'You don't understand! The destruction of the ox parallels the destruction of Colonel Kurtz! Can't you see that?' It was sad."
According to Tillich, Jensen's failure to see Apocalypse Now is her worst cinematic transgression since last October, when the couple was browsing a Blockbuster video store and she casually pointed at the box for Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and said, "I've seen that. Yuck!" Jensen further outraged Tillich when she rejected such proposed rentals as A Clockwork Orange, Glengarry Glen Ross, Wall Street, and True Romance.
Other infamous episodes that have occurred during the couple's 18-month relationship include Tillich's August 1999 insistence that Jensen listen to all of side two of the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat, his January 1999 failure to talk Jensen into visiting the grave of Philip K. Dick during a Colorado road trip, and his ongoing unsuccessful efforts to get her to read Alan Moore's Watchmen, a 1986 postmodern-superhero graphic novel she described as "a comic book about a big blue space guy" and that he calls "nothing less than a total, devastating deconstruction of virtually every archetype in the genre's history."
The most frustrating thing, Tillich said, is the fact that Jensen is "exactly my idea of the perfect woman for me," making her ignorance of the seminal film all the harder to fathom and forcing him to call into question, at a profound level, the basic foundation of their relationship and future together.
"You've got to realize, Bran is not just some airhead," Tillich told Fuller over drinks at the Azusa Pacific student union. "She's intelligent, involved, and culturally aware. So how the hell could she not know about Brando and Sheen's classic encounters in Kurtz's depraved jungle fortress? What in Apocalypse Now could possibly be unappealing to a smart, deep, complicated, interesting 22-year-old woman? It just doesn't add up."
"I just don't know if I can be seriously committed to somebody who has no interest in seeing Apocalypse Now," Tillich continued. "She's just really missing out. I bet she'd love it I could just get her to sit down and watch it."