ROME (Reuters) - Italian film and opera director Franco Zeffirelli is offering his services to Pope Benedict as an image consultant, saying the German pontiff comes across as cold and needs to review his wardrobe.
Zeffirelli, acclaimed for movies such as "Romeo and Juliet" and "Jesus of Nazareth," said in an interview with la Stampa daily on Saturday the 80-year-old pope did not have "a happy image."
"Coming after a media-savvy pope like John Paul II is a difficult task ... Benedict XVI still communicates coldly, in a way that is not suited with what is happening around him," Zeffirelli said.
"It's an issue I have been discussing with people who have key roles in the Vatican," said Zeffirelli, who has directed some Vatican television events.
"The Pope does not smile much, but he is an intellectual. He has a very rigid Bavarian structure," he said.
Zeffirelli, 84, added that papal robes were "too sumptuous and flashy." "What is needed is the simplicity and sobriety seen in the other echelons of the Church," he said.
Zeffirelli said he was in regular contact with the Pope's closest aides and had also made proposals to "defend the image of faith in cinema, the image of the sacred."
"The Holy See intends to pay a lot more attention to this," he said.
He said today's religious films were "a horror that the Holy See does not know how to stop.
"I am a Christian down to the depths of my spirit. I can't stand by while this disaster unfolds. I am available to put myself at the service of the Church," he said.
"If they officially give me a supervisory role, I will do it full-time."
The Vatican was not immediately available for comment.
Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Janet Lawrence