I agree with both you guys (and I hope you got the joke buried in there, Sir Z).
There's a certain wispy, aerated, slightly-drunken-while-smiling-thru-a-frown-&-rocking-softly-from-side-to-side-with-eyes-gently-closed (how's that for forced?) inocuous, poppy melancholia to Prevertain poetic realism as captured in say, the majesterial THE PORT OF HAZE (or FOG)/THE MISTY QUAI (I hate PORT OF SHADOWS as a translation almost as much as I hate LADY KILLER.. spoiler title if there ever was one... for LOVER-LIPS/HOT LIPS). Poetic Realism therein is almost the same pose effected by Keruoac a decade later in his works, that slightly drunken, warm-inside, celebration of equanimity-- the acceptance of the sad hard facts of life, and answering the discovery by living in the moment, living for love, sex, comeradeship, bohemianism, art, concepts of beauty publicly proclaimed with passion, etc. It was self-conscious of the fact, in the way the Beats were, that Pink Floyd later on were, etc, that this pose-- especially during reactionary and homogenous, pre-rock and roll times-- registered as very "cool". Hip to combine high art with crime and sadness... something first discovered by Bauer and Walsh in the mid-teens, developed by the Germans and von Sternberg (to a limited degree). Warner & Paramount in the early 30's. The idea just took off, however, in France with their fabulous inherent aesthetic/cultural sensibilities and unique national sense of identity, potentiated as well by the arc of enthusiasm-to-disillusionment of the Popular Front. It was a self-conscious celebration of sadness, coming to terms with difficult life facts, grisaille, chiaroscuro, drinking, smoking, crime, wet cobblestone streets at night in the bad part of town, leaning, half-collapsed old tenements, and the lower class millieu in general as well as all their rituals and shady survival shortcuts.. often in sympathetic terms (see QUAI, LENFANTS DU PARADIS, etc).
In Gremillion there is no celebration of this world. It is all portrayed in stark, disturbing terms-- his characters do not seem to join hands and "celebrate" (for want of a better term for displaying onscreen consciousness of, and sadly happy acceptance of) their misfortunes or difficulties. They do not seem to see themselves as better than the vested classes for their self-conscious awareness of their own contact with certain Basic Facts that the haute monde never have to confront (very Pop Frontish/commie/socioMarxist proletariot sentiment entirely minimized to nonexistence in Grem, Spaakian or not). Thus in films like PETIT LISE or GUEULE the sense of documentary realism, this in spite of all the ballet of drifting camera and pirouhetting editing rhythms. I see in QUAI DE BRUMES characters performing on a world's stage, speaking on behalf of the lost souls of the planetin broad strokes about the condition of being alive in very French terms. These essentially tragic characters are, despite the self-consciousness of the pose and stylization viz the "cool element, nontheless very much of, and from, the world of painting, literature, and the cinema, existing to exemplify and symbolize.
I see in Gremillion pains and sufferings so real, I almost feel like a slimy voyeur for even watching, peering through the keyhole into someone else's very real-- very very personal, symbolizing nobody else owing to the sense of stifling isolation-- agony and misfortune. They speak for nobody but themselves. We are not them, we don't want to be them. That sublime discomfort created in the viewer. Creatures not usually resident in art... though not entirely alien, as in the literature of Dostoyevsky, certain moments in Murnau and Kobayashi.