By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated January 23, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

OSCAR AND LUCINDA (R) Gillian Armstrong takes Peter Carey’s remarkable novel about two unlikely gamblers in 19th-century Australia and turns it into a remarkable film, one so visually beautiful that the slowness of the storytelling becomes its own eccentric selling point. Ralph Fiennes plays Oscar, an odd Anglican minister addicted to the thrills of wagering; Cate Blanchett is his soul mate, Lucinda — the kind of warm-blooded feminist that may be Armstrong’s most important contribution to the image of women on screen. A-