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BETTY BLUE - An infernal rehash of ``A Woman Under the Influence'' as James M. Cain might have written it. The title character is a working-class woman who slowly loses her mind while living with a would-be novelist. The action is harrowing, the performances intense, the sex scenes clinical and continual. Directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix, who has regained control of the athletic visual style he showed in ``Diva'' a few years ago. (Not rated) THE MISSION - Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro play 18th-century Jesuit missionaries in the South American jungle. Because their community provides a haven for refugees from the slave trade, greedy politicians and weak church authorities want to close it down. The heroes vow to defend it, one through faith and the other through violence. The performers have trouble getting their mouths around Robert Bolt's stilted dialogue, and director Roland Joff'e rarely builds any tension or suspense. Despite the good intentions of the filmmakers, moreover, the second-class treatment of the Indian characters is superficial and patronizing. (Rated PG) NOBODY'S FOOL - A small-town girl with a ``bad reputation'' meets a small-time traveling actor, and his romantic image sweeps her off her feet. There are some mildly touching and amusing moments in the story, which was written by Beth Henley and directed by Evelyn Purcell, a promising newcomer. Their portrait of ``colorful characters'' is more gossipy than perceptive, though, and Rosanna Arquette lets her performance veer out of control more than once. In all, less goofy than the somewhat similar ``True Stories'' but less original and surprising, too. (Rated PG-13) THE SACRIFICE - Faced with imminent nuclear disaster, a scholarly man tries to take the end of the world on his shoulders, promising to give up all he treasures if such an action can somehow save the rest of humanity. This long, wordy parable was written and directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, a distinguished Soviet filmmaker who emigrated to Europe a few years ago. It has his patented visual style, based on graceful camera movements and long, sometimes surrealistic shots with little editing. The painfully slow progress of the film cleverly sets up the audience for an action-packed climax, but serves more importantly to build a meditative atmosphere that encourages thought and contemplation rather than emotional or psychological involvement with the characters. A unique achievement, with great rewards for those willing to settle into its gradual rhythms. (Rated PG) SOUL MAN - To get a law school scholarship, a young white man pretends to be a young black man. The plot exploits white resentment of minority-help programs, but the comedy is more stupid than offensive. Directed by Steve Miner. (Rated PG-13) TAI-PAN - The founding of Hong Kong is the main thread of this clumsy epic about a British colonialist who becomes a tycoon in the China trade. Lavish, loud, and as hokey as they come. Directed by Daryl Duke. (Rated R) RATINGS: Films with ratings other than G may contain varying degrees of vulgar language, nudity, sex, and violence.

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