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Frozen Angels

If Michael Mann ever made a documentary about human-reproduction technologies, it might look a lot like "Frozen Angels," PBS-bound pic in which talking-head interviews and cinema-verite interludes are intercut with portentous urban imagery reminiscent of "Heat" and "Collateral."

If Michael Mann ever made a documentary about human-reproduction technologies, it might look a lot like “Frozen Angels,” PBS-bound pic in which talking-head interviews and cinema-verite interludes are intercut with portentous urban imagery reminiscent of “Heat” and “Collateral.” Producer-directors Eric Black and Frauke Sandig evidently intended to give their material the vaguely unsettling ambiance of a noirish thriller. Unfortunately, they distract from thought-provoking substance by needlessly hyping with attention-drawing style. Global tube venues await.

Docu attempts an ambitious overview of various assisted-reproduction trends in Los Angeles, and remains mostly nonjudgmental even while raising tricky moral questions. Interviewees ranging from talk-radio host Bill Handel to biotechnology expert Lori Andrews discuss prospects for “designer humans” through genetic screening and enhancement of embryos. Sperm-bank personnel note how often infertile couples explicitly ask for a kind of surfer lookor all-American girl look while custom-ordering offspring. As a result, one researcher warns, humans conceivably could evolve into “two different species” — products of natural reproduction and miracles of modern science. Unfortunately, filmmakers undercut the seriousness of their observations and arguments with pointless, protracted nighttime shots of spookily illuminated oil refineries and other visual clutter.

Frozen Angels

Production: An Independent Television Service (ITVS) production in association with the Corp. for Public Broadcasting, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, ZDF, France 2 and YLE TV 1. Produced, directed by Eric Black, Frauke Sandig.

Crew: Camera (color), Black; editor, Silke Botsch; music, Zoe Keating, Thomas Mavers, Mark Clifford, Jorg Seibold, Max Sharam. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 28, 2005. Running time: 93 MIN.

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