Appreciations of Brian De Palma's masterful art often center on acknowledged pop culture phenomena like “Carrie” and “Scarface.” But one of my favorite films of his has always been “Carlito’s Way,” which has been given a 4K restoration by Arrow in a loaded new limited edition release that also includes new special features and a commentary track from our very own editor-at-large Matt Zoller Seitz. If you admire Matt’s work here as one of the best working film critics in the world, you owe it to yourself to hear him unpack a film as you’re watching it. What I love about Seitz’s track here is that he doesn’t do the typical anecdote thing wherein a commentary is just a series of trivia bites about the production of the film that someone learned from reading interviews with the players involved. Instead, he consistently discusses the choices that De Palma is making. How is the rotating camera here creating disorientation, and why is that the choice here? Why does De Palma cut here? Or not? Why this angle? Why this zoom? And you can hear his joy at the process of analysis. He does it all with a smile and often a laugh. “Carlito’s Way” is one of my favorite films of its era, and Seitz’s track here made me love it even more.
“Carlito’s Way” is an adaptation of two novels by Judge Edwin Torres: the one that gives it its title and After Hours. Adapted by David Koepp, it tells the tale of Carlito Brigante, a New York criminal who consistently tries to leave his life of crime behind but keeps getting dragged back into it. It’s almost the “Better Call Saul” of gang movies, the tale of a man who tries repeatedly to do the right thing but keeps finding himself doing the wrong thing instead. It’s a fascinating mirror to “Scarface,” a movie that Pacino and De Palma made a decade earlier. This film feels in many ways like an antidote to the excess of that one. It’s clearly the product of an older filmmaker and actor, a balance of the exuberance of youth from their previous film with ideas like regret. In my opinion, "Carlito's Way" is vastly superior. (I think it’s second only to “Blow Out” in De Palma’s entire career.)
The Arrow-commissioned release of “Carlito’s Way” contains one of their phenomenal 4K transfers, allowing for a greater appreciation of Stephen H. Burum’s cinematography. This film has a lot of interior shots in dark rooms, and the 4K transfer highlights the use of space, shadows, and even cigarette smoke in new ways. This release also features a strong sound mix, one that seems to amp up the phenomenal score by Patrick Doyle, which gives the piece a sense of high theatrical tragedy right from the very beginning.
As for the special features, the Seitz audio commentary is one of the best of the year, but Arrow also imports several excellent archival features and includes a few new interviews: one with Torres and one with the editors Bill Pankow and Kristina Boden, who explain how quickly this film was shot and put together—it started shooting in March 1993 and was in theaters in November. That’s insane for a film of this scope. And it's a reminder that sometimes great art comes from a collaboration of artists forced to rely on their instincts and ability instead of over-planning or long windows of time.
With each passing decade, “Carlito’s Way” is the De Palma film that seems to rise most in rankings of his work. This Arrow release should only boost its deserved ascendance.
Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative
Double-sided fold-out poster featuring newly-commissioned artwork by Tom Ralston and Obviously Creative
Seven double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions
Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and original production notes
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (2160p) presentation in High Dynamic Range
Brand new audio commentary by Matt Zoller Seitz, author of The Wes Anderson Collection and The Soprano Sessions
Brand new audio commentary by Dr. Douglas Keesey, author of Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life in Film
Original stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary by Matt Zoller Seitz
Brand new audio commentary by Dr Douglas Keesey
Carlito and the Judge, a brand new interview with Judge Edwin Torres, author of the novels Carlito’s Way and After Hours on which the screenplay for Carlito’s Way is based
Cutting Carlito’s Way, a brand new interview with editors Bill Pankow and Kristina Boden
De Palma’s Way, a brand new appreciation by film critic David Edelstein
All the Stitches in the World: The Locations of Carlito’s Way, a brand new look at the New York locations of Carlito’s Way and how they look today
De Palma on Carlito’s Way, an archival interview with director Brian De Palma
The Making of Carlito’s Way, an archival documentary on the making of the film, produced for the original DVD release
Original promotional featurette
Theatrical teaser and trailer