“And if I laugh at any mortal thing, tis that I may not weep.”

— Byron

Those happy few, that band of brothers and sisters who served in Korea during the bloody, futile “police action,” will know just which bells in Robert Altman’s big, bloody, funny and sad “M*A*S*H” ring the truest.

Some who were in the actual mobile army surgical hospitals during the war thought it disrespectful and sexist. Others, including friends of mine from the war, think it was spot on.

There were many MASH units, and I’m sure there was a Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John in at least one. And Hot Lips Houlihan? I hope so.

Author Richard Hooker, whose real name is H. Richard Hornberger, a New Jersey native who lived in Bremen and practiced medicine here in Waterville after the war, was quoted in the Boston Globe in 1977 saying, “I thought the movie was great, but the television thing isn’t my kind of humor. It’s someone else’s idea of what medical humor is supposed to be.” Of course it was.

It doesn’t matter now. Robert Altman’s classic anti-war film, a Ring Lardner Jr. screenplay taken from Hornberger’s novel, is back in town at the 2015 Maine International Film Festival.

It’s loud, brash, profane, outrageous, hilarious and heartbreaking. Isn’t that the definition of a movie and of war itself?

It’s guaranteed to evoke old memories among those who served and those who stood and watched.

I’m sure that the generation who venerated the series and grew up with a sanitized version will be shocked by the real darkness of Altman’s movie.

The original bunch were never duplicated in any way by the television gang, except for Radar, played by the inimitable Gary Burghoff, who was in both.

But here it is, and it’s lots of fun to see again.

In rewatching it after this long period, I can see why it fit so snugly into a series. The movie moves along in the same small chapters, flowing smoothly into one another.

Everyone familiar with the film has a favorite moment, and usually, they’re the same ones for everyone: The “unveiling ” of Hot Lips in the nurses’ shower, while the boys carefully set it up like a one-night-only grand opening complete with reserved seating, liquid refreshments and curtain drop. Wonderful.

Millennial women will boo and hiss, but Hot Lips will certainly be on Sally Kellerman’s tombstone, and warriors, young and old, will commemorate her.

The “Suicide Funeral Farewell Dinner” for Capt. Waldowski (John Schuck), set up to duplicate Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” should be framed and hung on the wall in the museum of movie history.

The football game — clearly the best cinema faux football game of all time, with the exception of Howard Deutch’s 2000 “The Replacements.” Like the Great Wall of China and the New York City Subway system, it has to be seen to be believed. I still don’t know how the great Altman did it.

The cast, each one, went on to high honors in the movie world. Robert Duvall, Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Bud Cort, and the ever sweet Jo Ann Pflug have grown old, as has this year’s Maine International Film Festival Mid-Life Achievement honoree, the ageless Michael Murphy, who as Capt. “Me Lay” Marston moves gracefully through the chaos to a memorable moment in an R&R dinner party, where he shamelessly steals the scene by appearing in a bright gold kimono. I would have done the same, given the wardrobe choice.

Byron’s words ring true here. There is no “war” in M*A*S*H, no cannon roars, bayonet charges or napalm. There is just the debris of war, the open wounds, torn limbs and bloody sheets.

But Altman, with masterful touches, shows us where the war was and remains, in the vacant eyes of men and women who daily stared into the abyss and shouted down death with gusts of laughter. I’m proud to say I looked into the eyes of some of the survivors. This film is their battle flag.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.