The 62nd VeniceInternational Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday night in hot and stickyweather with the world premiere of Tsui Hark's Seven Swords, amid heightened security measuresinvolving more than a dozen metal detectors and around 1,000 police officerspatroling the Lido.

The black tieopening ceremony, which was hosted by Spanish model Ines Sastre, was attendedby the Seven Swordsdelegation, as well as Ang Lee, whose Brokeback Mountain is screening in competition, John Woo,Jacqueline Bisset, Dante Ferretti alongside his fellow jury members, andItalian cultural minister Rocco Buttiglione.

The ceremony wasa fast moving, streamlined affair in marked contrast to the organizationalquagmire that launched last year's festival.

However, theseveral hundreds of onlookers who had gathered in front of the red carpet inthe hope of seeing Hollywood stars, including George Clooney, who has arrivedin Venice to accompany is competition film Good Night. And, Good Luck, were left disappointed by a ratherlacklustre event.

Instead, most ofthe talk on opening night was about the barrage of security in front of thePalazzo del Cinema and Casino.

Carabinieri withdogs and guns, and a multitude of metal gates, surveillance cameras and metaldetectors circle what has been named "the red zone". Security guards have alsoreceived orders not to let any festival-goers into screening areas with largebags or back-packs.

Biennalepresident Davide Croff said the heightened security was officially requestedthree weeks ago by the Italian Interior ministry, in light of the recent waveof international terrorist attacks.

Still, Crofftold journalists the Biennale had tried to make the metal detectors blend intothe scenic background. As such, they have been grouped together under whitearches, topped by the same Golden Lions that decorate the front of the Palazzodel Cinema.

"They look likethe Brandenburg Gate," Croff smiled. "But the security is only there for everyoneto feel safe and protected."

During theopening ceremony Croff later thanked festival-goers in advance for their"patience and collaboration in coping with the security. Unfortunately, it is asign of the difficult times the world is currently living through," he said.

Nevertheless,the Lido was in festive mood on Wednesday. While the festival's opening filmgarnered a lukewarm reception, a massive Seven Swords dinner party was held on the beachfollowing the premiere.

TheChinese-themed event for 1,000 guests, which featured a fireworks display, isrumoured to have cost Euros 150,000.

Hot titlesthat are set to unspool during the festival include BrokebackMountain, Elizabethtown, Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride, Philippe Garrel's Les Amants Reguliers and Patrice Chereau's Gabrielle.

From Thursday, artistic director Marco Mueller will beginwelcoming a host of stars, including George Clooney, Jake Gyllenhaal, HeathLedger, Orlando Bloom and Monica Bellucci.

Later this week, Venice isalso expected to announce the "surprise" addition of a film in competition.