In this ironic French tale of tragedy and love, Laurent (Yves Montand), a world-weary ex-convict and prison-reform writer is coming back to the dreary town his old prison is in. To someone whose life is so imbued with violence, everything he sees seems like a threat. Indeed, the town appears to be populated solely by thugs and elderly people. The banked fires of his passion are awakened when he sees a perfectly normal looking professional woman (Katherine Ross) coming down the street. Soon afterward, his sense of danger fails him, for he is brutally beaten in a men's restroom by a martial-artist nun. When he is taken for medical treatment, he discovers that the lovely woman he saw earlier is to be his doctor.