The screams of the crowds and paparazzi who met AlPacino's arrival at the Venice Film Festival at the weekend almost paledin comparison to the chaos and ruckus caused by Italian anti-globalisationactivists, temporary workers in the French entertainment industry, and theBiennale's ticketing system that went completely haywire causingdouble-booking and massive delays to many events.

On Saturday, French temporary entertainment industry workersbriefly disrupted a press conference held for Guido Chiesa's competitiontitle, Lavorare con Lentezza (literally,Work Slowly), which is aFrench-Italian co-production.

A handful of "intermittents du spectacle"grabbed a microphone and started shouting and waving a banner. Fandango'sDomenico Procacci, who was on stage as the producer of Chiesa's film,leapt out of his seat to stopover-zealous Italian security guards from getting into a tussle with theprotestors.

In the evening, anti-globalisation activists, hundreds ofwhom are currently on the Lido, dressed up as mutants on a giant inflatable oilrig and paraded down the Lido's Gran Viale to the Palazzo del Cinema,where the gala screening of The Merchant Of Venice was being held at the time.

The "mutants" and other activists who areprotesting against the war in Iraq, US blockbusters, high-priced tickets and aNATO meeting that will be held on the Lido from November 11-16, then proceededto jump onto the red-carpet catwalk in front of the Palazzo del Cinema. Theyhad already caused a one-hour delay to the festival's opening ceremony.

But those inside the Palazzo del Cinema - who were stillwaiting for the gala premiere of The Merchant Of Venice to begin and many of whom were scrambling for seatsone hour after the film's scheduled start - were more infuriated with theBiennale organisers than interested in the mutants outside.

Minutes before, Al Pacino had happily worked the crowds,signing autographs and endlessly waving to adoring fans outside the Palazzo delCinema. But when the Merchant'scast, which includes Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes, and its posse ofinternational producers finally moved away from the flashing cameras, they werepromptly stopped from entering the Sala Grande screening room and whisked away,as hundreds of people had still not left the previous screening and hundredsmore were still unseated.

The rightly embarrassed, white-tied Biennale presidentDavide Croff, took to the stage and apologised to the 200 people - many of whomhad paid Euros 30 for a ticket - who couldn't find seats. He was booedaway when the audience, which alsoincluded Italy's deposed royalty, was told that the Biennale hadexperienced a "technical" problem with its ticketing system and hadeffectively overbooked.

Eventually, the Biennale offered to reimburse tickets andset up an extra screening in another room, but the outcry only stopped whenCroff asked for one minute's silence to commemorate the victims of theRussian school tragedy. (On Friday night, a minute's silence alsopreceded the gala screening of Tom Cruise vehicle Collateral).

Artistic director Marco Mueller, who, ironically, had askedVenice to set up a last-minute cut-price ticket booth on the Lido to fill theseats which had been left empty at earlier gala premieres, was philosophicalabout the weekend's events.

"It is difficult to try to invent a festival in a madrush. It also means not having time to foresee problems, which yes, we havehad. Screenings should now be able to start on time, and after the weekend,everything should run more smoothly," Mueller said hopefully.

Meanwhile, The Merchant of Venice garnered a tepid reaction from the gala audience andItalian critics. The cast later attended a very-late starting dinner for 500people which the city of Venice held in their honour in the impressive PalazzoDucale near St Mark's.

Still, weary-eyed industry figures reported that guestscould have eaten, returned to the Lido island and still have caught theMidnight screening of the well-received Finding Neverland - which started over two hours late at 2.15 am andfinished at 4am.