This movie precipitated the creation of the NC-17 MPAA rating, which it earned in place of an "X". The two to three second shot of Anais looking at an explicit illustrated postcard involving a Japanese woman and a squid, less than three minutes into the opening credits of the film, was the cause of the NC-17 rating.
Director Kaufman first came into contact with Miller's works in the '50s while at the University of Chicago. He recalled that Tropic of Cancer (mentioned in the film as the book Henry is in the process of writing) "was the ultimate secret book everybody was reading".
When Anais flips through the stack of erotic postcards in the beginning of the film, one of them is of a woman propped up in a chair with a hat on and is shown hiking up her skirt with one hand. The image is the same one used on the first edition cover of Anais Nin's short story collection titled, "Delta of Venus."
Approximately 135 minutes into the film, Anais is attending an event at which a strolling guitar player can be heard strumming "Gran Vals" by Francisco Tarrega - more readily recognizable from its notes comprising the Nokia ringtone.